Sunday, October 2

Kinky Boots – Blackpool Grand Theatre

If Musicals bingo was a thing, Kinky Boots would surely tick every single box. Based on a true story? Check. Working class factory setting? Check. Underdog who wins the day? Well, that would be something of a spoiler, but you can guess the answer.

Based on a true story, we meet Charlie Price who, following a chance meeting with a drag queen named Lola, decides to re-invigorate the shoe factory he has recently inherited from his late father, by making shoes for drag queens. Soon a prestigious trade show in Milan beckons but Lola and Charlie look set to fall out over whether the Italian critics will like the cut of their leather.

With Harvey Fierstein’s devilishly funny script, adapted from Tim Firth’s original screenplay (himself no stranger to ‘beat the odds’ musicals) and a sparkling score from pop icon Cyndi Lauper, Kinky Boots has all the ingredients for any company staging this show to succeed. It’s no surprise it’s been a popular choice for a glut of amateur companies recently.

Under the excellent direction of Neil Townsend, Blackpool Operatic Players have certainly given us an energetic and entertaining account of the show. Following a three-year hiatus, it’s clear the ensemble is delighted to be back doing what they love most.

The team make the most of the professionally hired set and costumes to strong effect, with superb choreography from Julie Segev and robust musical backing from Musical Director Chris Andrew’s orchestra. It keeps the pace of the show fizzing along nicely, with the bigger numbers being real showstoppers.

Frazer Mundy does well in the lead role of Charlie, delivering the required bemusement and bewilderment as his brain tries to turn Lola’s wilder ideas into reality. Occasionally his vocals go off-key, with a few lines fluffed, but his solos are full of conviction especially as panic sets in over the future of the company and its dedicated employees.

He is well matched with Becky Farran as Lauren, who brings a lot of comic relief in the early stages of the show and has bags of fun with her number ‘The History of Wrong Guys’, although sometimes it feels she mugs up some of her dialogue more than is needed.  

Bruce Jackson gives a solid turn as the villainous Don, a factory worker who is thoroughly unconvinced of the company’s new direction and makes no pretense of his homophobic dislike of Lola. And Rob Baldock is enjoyable in the role of George, a quiet chap within whom Lola seems to unleash something of a naughty streak.

Special mention must also be made to Seth Doughty and Keiran Charlton as the young versions of Charlie and Lola, the latter being particularly good with a confident singing voice and stage presence.

But the show utterly belongs to Lola, played to perfection by Reece Oliver, and her Angels. Their routines would put professionals to shame, with ‘The Sex is in the Heel’ being an absolute barnstormer.

And somehow simultaneously channelling Mae West and Lily Savage, Oliver moves effortlessly from swaggering sass and venomously funny put-downs to compelling vulnerability as Lola’s alter-ego Simon, as we see the reality behind Lola’s choices in life. ‘Not my Father’s Son’ is a powerful confessional, showing Oliver’s vocal dexterity to superb effect. Some of the numbers are clearly at the edge of his range but he throws everything at it and is completely convincing.

Like the storyline, there are bumps in the road for tonight’s performance but we’re able to sashay past them thanks to the energy, heart and soul that the company pours into proceedings. With the audience on their feet for the bows, this glittering musical may be full of Queens but it certainly doesn’t drag.

Kinky Boots is at the Blackpool Grand till Saturday 16th April, including matinees. For tickets visit https://www.blackpoolgrand.co.uk/event/kinky-boots-the-musical-2022

Reviewer: Lou Steggals

Reviewed: 13th April 2022

North West End UK Rating: ★★★★

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