Red, not burgundy Kinky Boots at the Adelphi Theatre on the Strand in London

Back in January I was already contemplating seeing Kinky Boots in Hamburg when I visited the Imperial Theater for a Sherlock Holmes adventure (review here) opposite its German staging on the Reeperbahn – since then Cyndi Lauper’s musical has been on my list. When a friend said to me that we should go and see a musical together next time we go out (we were sitting in the bar of the Soho Theatre, waiting for the storytelling of the Crick Crack Club to start), Kinky Boots announced later that very same week their fourth season kick off with a new cast and some very attractive ticket offers. One week later we therefore meet at the Strand with its numerous theatres and venues; I remember seeing the fabulous Beatles tribute Let It Be in the beautiful Savoy Theatre in the hotel opposite and am currently trying to fit in a visit to the close-by Charing Cross Theatre’s upcoming show.

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At daylight the façade of the Adelphi Theatre looks almost plain between the surrounding rather classic buildings but the inside is an art deco feast for the eyes: I am taken back to New York by the beautiful Broadway font signs, the sizzling but continuous carpet pattern – the geometrical shapes created by mirrors and metal bars could easily stage a Dr. Mabuse walk through experience, based on the 1920s Fritz Lang films. (Did I mention I am finally on Instagram as Sadietakesthestage?)

The musical tonight is set a couple of decades later and definitely not black and white – we actually learn about the meaning of colours tonight, red in particular, and I will make sure I don’t use the colour burgundy to describe anything else but water bottles in future.

We are being taken to Northampton where Charlie has inherited his father’s leading position at the local shoe factory, just when he had moved to London with his fiancée – why she could not wait to embrace the new metropolitan lifestyle he had just been happy to get out of the surroundings. Back home he is now confronted with the company’s financial struggles and has to let go of staff; these are people he grew up with, people who depend on their jobs in the factory he now leads very unhappily in the 5th generation.

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On a trip to see his fiancée in London Charlie bumps into drag queen Lola and is being introduced to the background dancers of her transvestite show. It seems initially like the two do not have much in common but this changes when the conversation turns to the comfort of shoes and Charlie comes up with the idea of turning his outdated business model around: There seems to be a market niche in the cross dressing scene for quality high heels for men’s feet. His sudden enthusiasm on the idea of changing the target group of the factory is not shared by all of his workers and it takes a couple of visits from Lola (and a proper boxing match) to convince everyone getting onboard: With this change of mood the play finds it swing and becomes fun and great and exciting, the songs get better and the singing much more advanced. Oliver Tompsett as Charlie and Natalie McQueen as Lauren, his assistant who has a big crush on her boss, stand out and are probably the best singers I have heard all year on musical stages.

The story moves on faster now as thankfully not every self-questioning decision making gets a monologues song: We learn more about Lola’s struggle growing up with a strong desire to dress far more glamorous and female than the macho father accepts – the questions being asked here are questions everyone struggles with at some point of our life: What do we owe our upbringing? What are the values we grew up with really worth? Are we indebted to our home town? Can we move on without betraying those we leave behind?

Charlie has big ambitions and wants to expose Lola’s crazy shoe creations on the trade fair in Milan but with so many egos involved things do not go according to plan at all. I will not give away more of the story but its end is hilarious and funny and oh so heartwarming, even thinking about it now makes me smile. No subtle colours are involved either: Luckily this show is not a niche product.

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Kinky Boots – after the film and screenplay (inspired by true events) by Geoff Deane and Tim Firth, adapted by Harvey Fierstein

Directed and choreographed by Jerry Mitchell

Score and Lyrics by Cyndi Lauper

We paid £15 per seat on the Upper Circle

Performing at the Adelphi Theatre in 409-412 Strand, London, WC2R 0NS which is easily reached by public transport f.e. Charing Cross, Embankment and Covent Garden station.

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