Kinky Boots At The Leeds Grand Is A Glittering Success

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There isn’t a more suited place in Leeds than the Grand Theatre to host the performance which refuses to announce itself quietly: Kinky Boots. The spectacular show arrived in the city on Tuesday 9th April with glitter, glam and garishness, and dazzled as bright as Lola’s red thigh-high boots. The cast showcased the electric and fiercely energetic songs from Grammy and Tony-winning pop legend Cindi Lauper, and filled the auditorium with sheer elation. Addressing empowering stories of defiance and prejudice, the story captures everything 2019 needs to hear and see, and then some.

With a play that loudly promotes acceptance of others despite their gender or identity, the take-home message could not come at a better time – only last week did Brunei pass laws punishing homosexuality by stoning. Director Jerry Mitchell’s Kinky Boots comes at a time when people are still being mistreated for being who they are. As the finale declares, ‘you can change the world when you change your mind’.

The story begins is the rather unspectacular setting of a men’s shoe factory in a gritty northern suburb of Northampton.  David Rockwell’s set magically captures the grind of factory life, and is transformed into the catwalks on Milan by the finale. Inspired by true events, the audience watch as Charlie Price (Joel Harper Jackson) inherits the failing shoe factory when his father dies suddenly. With the burden of a factory in decline and the pressures from his girlfriend, Nicola, to start a new life in London, Charlie must decide who he will support: the workers in the factory who he’s known all his life, or his whiny and materialistic love interest (Helen Ternent).

The performance quickly gains momentum down the back ally of a pub, where a woman is being cornered by an aggressive group of men. Being the good boy that he’s always been, Charlie steps into help, only to be knocked out by a handbag swung at the force of a professional boxer. Enter Lola, the loud and proud central character to the play. Kayi Ush puts on what can only be described as the performance of a lifetime with ballads such as ‘Not My Father’s Son’ and ‘Hold Me In Your Heart’ making the hairs on the back of each audience member’s neck stand to attention.  When Lola’s “two-and-a-half feet of irresistible tubular sex” meets Charlie Price after a hazy night of drinking in an Irish pub, the factory owner’s life is carried six inches off the ground. A new adventure arises in the form of a red, thigh-high boot. Lola is brought in to help Charlie save the future of the factory and the staff’s employment, but her arrival doesn’t come quietly, and neither does her accompanying troupe of drag angels. If there is one reason to go and see this sensational play, it is the extravaganza of Lola and her angels (Connor Collins, John J Dempsey, Damon Gould, Joshua Lovell, Chilshé Mondelle and Toyan Thomas-Browne). They command the stage; it is impossible to keep your eyes off them, and they definitely don’t want you to.

The most spectacular moment comes when the factory is brought to life during the ensemble display of ‘Everybody Say Yeah’. The shoe conveyor belts used for the production line morph into a hectic, but tightly controlled, spectacle where the characters jump from one to the other, over them and under them. The dynamics of the staging expertly craft a scene which was pure joy to watch. A review would not be complete without mentioning Paula Lauren’s performance as Lauren, a stereotypical northern lass who gets arguably the best song in the show, ‘The History of Wrong Guys’. Picture a morph of Stevie from BBC’s Miranda and Glinda from Wicked, and Lauren is born.


Kinky Boots deserves its place on the stage as we see characters who strive tirelessly for acceptance, and acceptance is what they will get from any audience member lucky enough to witness it.

Image credit: on-magazine.co.uk