Theatre Review - Kinky Boots at Manchester Opera House

PUBLISHED: 12:23 20 November 2018 | UPDATED: 12:23 20 November 2018

Joel Harper-Jackson, as Charlie, has the solution to his factory's troubles, in Kinky Boots Manchester Opera House
Credit: Helen Maybanks

Joel Harper-Jackson, as Charlie, has the solution to his factory's troubles, in Kinky Boots Manchester Opera House Credit: Helen Maybanks

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Kinky Boots, the stage musical, is a simply fabulous night out, darlings! Kate Houghton writes.

Callum Francis delivers a magnificent Lola, in Kinky Boots at Manchester Opera House
Credit: Helen MaybanksCallum Francis delivers a magnificent Lola, in Kinky Boots at Manchester Opera House Credit: Helen Maybanks

What can I say? Kinky Boots is absolutely everything you anticipate it will be, absolutely fabulous and you should absolutely get yourself along to see it while you can!

If you’ve not seen the film, in short, this is a tale of two sons who grow up very aware that they are disappointing their fathers by not following in their footsteps, one into the generations old family shoe making business and the other into the boxing ring. While Charlie, son of the shoemaker, rebels in a more traditional manner by running off to London to join an estate agency, Simon takes on an alter-ego – the stunning, wise-cracking, powerful, fragile Lola.

Paula Lane as Lauren, realising her feelings for Charlie, in Kinky Boots
Credit: Helen MaybanksPaula Lane as Lauren, realising her feelings for Charlie, in Kinky Boots Credit: Helen Maybanks

Charlie’s father dies, his factory is failing and Charlie decides to save it, and all the jobs that go with it. But how? Step up Lola, a towering, leggy drag queen who simply can’t find the boots she needs to support her weight while delivering the sex appeal she desires.

The result is a sad-happy tale of finding one’s own place in a challenging world, learning to accept others for who they are (cue typical working male with issues around others’ sexuality) and it all coming right in the end. Yes, it might be predictable, but goodness it’s well done.

While the show is liberally peppered with talent, one man shines high above the rest, and not only for his ability to slink, stride and high kick in stiletto heels so high most women would prefer to gaze upon than wear. Callum Francis, in the role of Lola, is a tour de force. His comic timing is superb, his delivery gives us perfect ‘warm-hearted hard-shelled’ heroine – think Pretty Woman with more lippy. The lines may have been written for the role, but he totally owns them, there’s no doubt at any moment that he’s Lola to the core. And goodness what a voice! He brings it on in every scene, but none so dazzlingly bright as in the song and dance number The Sex is in the Heel. Oh my, as Darcy might say.

It comes as no surprise to learn that he’s been plucked from our shores to star in the same role on Broadway year.

It can’t be easy to hold one’s own in a show where Lola steals every scene she’s in, but Joel Harper-Jackson, as Charlie, and Paula Lane, as factory worker Lauren, do their best – and it’s a great best. Harper-Jackson belts out his songs with gusto, while what Lane lacks in vocal control she makes up for in fabulous comedic style and stage presence.

If you’re seeking a night out that ends with a massive smile on your face while you leap to your feet, along with the rest of the theatre, you won’t go wrong with a trip to see Kinky Boots. This glitter-packed exploration of what it means to be true to oneself is an absolute cracker of a show.

Kinky Boots plays at Manchester Opera House until Saturday, 1 December. Tickets available from www.atgtickets.com/shows/kinky-boots/opera-house-manchester/

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