Kinky Boots brings heart, humour and sole to the stage

Callum Francis stars as Lola in Kinky Boots - photo by Matthew MurphyKinky Boots could quite possibly be one of the best things to happen to the musical theatre scene in Australia this year.

This certainly is a big claim and one must be careful not to board a hype train based on rave reviews from Broadway and the West End, the multiple Tony awards the show has already won, or the publicity the show has received based on the music legend Cyndi Lauper’s writing of the score.

Fortunately, Kinky Boots deserves the acclaim it has received, and Melbourne audiences at Her Majesty’s Theatre can now walk and dance in these boots in a size that fits most, if not all.

Much like the careful construction of a boot, the story stitches together the life of Charlie (Toby Francis), who takes over his father’s struggling shoe factory amidst other factories closing around him, with Simon – a larger-than-life drag queen named Lola (Callum Francis). The storyline is heart-warming and fun, yet takes itself seriously enough to deal with issues such as equality, acceptance and belief in oneself.

The story, adapted from the 2005 movie and written by Harvey Fierstein, focusses on taking a risk, and indeed Kinky Boots is itself a risky production – poor casting would almost certainly tarnish the reputation the show has gathered thus far. And while a perfect pair of boots were sought in the story line, a perfect trio in the leading cast came in the form of Callum Francis, Toby Francis and the energetic and hilarious Sophie Wright who played Lauren.

Francis’ portrayal of Lola was truly the highlight of the show, from his immediate and continual stage presence, fabulous costuming (thanks to Gregg Barnes), and incredible vocal range. Francis was very much needed as the subject matter at times was quite dark, and a strong performance was required to both carry the audience through the depths of emotion to the tear-inducing scenes of personal strength, as well as the generous hilarity and pitch perfect one-liners.

The lead performers were supported by a strong cast, with special mention to Daniel Williston who played the difficult role of the narrow-minded Don, and to Lola’s drag star troupe of Angels. These stunning beauties brought to the stage a level of “eleganza” that puts a certain cable TV show to shame.

The thoroughly enjoyable soundtrack reflected Cyndi Lauper’s “true colours”, and unlike all too many productions, each song added to the storyline rather than being an entertaining pause.  Songs such as What a Woman Wants were empowering as well as adding an element of comedic talent, thanks again to the presence of Lola. The superb direction and choreography by Jerry Mitchell provided seamless action throughout the production, with dance numbers on par with most major shows, or indeed an ‘OK Go’ music clip in one instance.

The set design by David Rockwell was simple and elegant, and combined with the lighting by Kenneth Posner showed, much like the score, how each element on the stage can be utilised to further the story rather than being present just for show.

Kinky Boots is a must-see, and should provide a refreshing change to even the most sceptical of theatre goer, if anything to witness the emergence of the next theatre great Callum Francis. Perhaps most importantly, Kinky Boots is an entertaining and means to show the world how equality and embracing individuality can lead to wonderful things. And of course, reminding us all that sex is in the heel!

Kinky Boots
Her Majesty’s Theatre, 219 Exhibition Street, Melbourne
Performance: Friday 21 October 2016 (preview)
Season continues to 15 January 2017
Bookings: www.ticketek.com.au

For more information, visit: www.kinkybootsthemusical.com.au for details.

Image: Callum Francis stars as Lola in Kinky Boots – photo by Matthew Murphy

Review: Jimmy Twin

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