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  • Writer's pictureReview Culture

Kinky Boots. The Majestic Theatre Retford. 5 - 7 May 2022

Updated: Apr 8, 2023


Never let it be said that Retford Musical Theatre Company opted for an easy return to the stage for 2022. Kinky Boots, with book by Harvey Fierstein and music by Cindy Lauper is a huge challenge and Review Culture was lucky enough to visit during its technical rehearsal at the Majestic Theatre. Based on the 2005 film of the same name, the musical has its roots in a true story, whereby a 1999 documentary told the story of Steve Pateman, who was trying to save his family firm by branching out into fetish footwear for men named Divine Footwear. It is of such things that Broadway dreams are made. The musical went on to win six Tony Awards and three Olivier Awards, including the award for Best New Musical in 2016. It has a terrific pedigree and is a real feelgood musical.

RMTC have chosen to produce a show with so many challenges, and yet it is clear that they are loving the show and are ready to bring it to their audience when the show opens on Thursday 5th May.

The imposing set is hugely impressive. It is everything you would hope for in portraying a "dark satanic mill" of a shoe factory based in Northampton. It dominates the stage and everywhere the eye rests, there is something to see and enjoy. The set changes are all performed by the enthusiastic and energetic ensemble, which can also provide challenges too but once the show is embedded within the theatre and everyone knows what needs to be where and when, it will look slick and as impressive as the set itself. The high ceiling on the stage at the Majestic allows for some lovely lighting effects and the fact that the theatre has a proper pit under the stage means that the wonderful orchestra are able to rock out to their hearts' content without visually distracting the audience.

The show has a large ensemble that span an enormous age range and two of its youngest cast members play lovely little cameos. Isaac Braithwaite, as Young Charlie, is instructed in the way of the family business being asked to forego football but being spoiled rotten by the ladies at his father's factory "Price & Son's". As Young Simon, Fraser Duffy manages to dance in heels and sing, whilst also reminding us that he was trained as a boxer from an early age.

There are many notable cameos within the cast, Jane Shelley has the thankless task of playing Nicola the aspiring, upwardly mobile girlfriend to (a now grown-up) Charlie. Nicola pushes Charlie to better himself, even when he isn't sure he shares her hopes and dreams. She captures the essence of the character perfectly. Ian Stewart plays the fatherly Mr Price, Charlie's dad, who sadly passes away setting the musical's story in motion. Drew Jackson makes a wonderful George, the factory foreman and Claire Fearn, Lesley Harris, Tim Bayley, Kim Bowler, Harriet Shaw-Browne, Adele Beaumont and Sam Taylor all give solid performances.

Special mention should be made of the hardworking Angels, billed as Erma God, Iona Bentley, Ivana Man, Krystelle Maes, Peach Snapz and Summer Salt. Visually they look wonderful and their backing dancing is terrific. They bring a fierce, yet joyful energy to the stage and firmly ground the show in the cabaret world of drag as intended.

The principal performers are exceptional in this show. As Don, Mark Thompson is a bluff, gruff, ill-educated bigot, whose eyes open through the course of the play and we see a lovely change in his character.

Emma Wighton playing Lauren, brings a real energy and professionalism to her performance as the ever-supportive shoemaker who inspires the boss and helps him to reach new heights with the firm. Her solo song The History of Wrong Guys, is wonderful. It really lifts the show, as Wighton throws herself into some really amusing facial contortions when she realises she has a crush on Charlie. Her vocal performance and choreography really help build her character. Its a shame the role is not more prominent in the show so we could really have seen more of her talent.

As Charlie Price, Jamie Savage is tremendous. His vocal energy and attack really highlights his ability and The Soul of a Man should generate thunderous applause from his audience, as he throws himself into the role making Charlie a fully-rounded and sympathetic character. His relationship with drag queen Lola is sweet and at times deeply emotional. It is no wonder Lauren develops her crush on Charlie.

The star role in this show though has to be Lola, the larger-than life drag queen who escaped provincial life and a repressive father to realise her dreams as a fearsome queen performing nightly with her Angels. JJ Gill does a terrific job bringing Lola to life, following in the stilletoed footsteps of the legendary Chewitel Ejiofor from the 2005 film. I loved Lola's brassy, cocky confidence as she strides confidently across the stage singing and dancing up a storm. The acerbic wit belies a soft centre, and Gill manages to remind us of the little boy in boxer's vest and shorts dancing in red shoes and brings real vulnerabiliy to the role. The duet between Lola and Charlie, Not My Father's Son, is truly beautiful and deeply moving.

This show is a visual feast and audiences will be glad that they took the time and the trouble to join Price and Sons for Kinky Boots. The show runs from Thursday 5th - Saturday 7th May 2022 and tickets are available now.



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