Hit musical, Kinky Boots —inspired by true events, with music by Cyndi Lauper and book by Harvey Feirstein— has vibrantly burst onto the Fugard Theatre stage with a great message: When you change your mind, you can change your whole world!
The Fugard Theatre original production of Kinky Boots, directed by Matthew Wild, is flamboyant, fierce and fantastic. It not only revels in the fabulousness of stiletto heels with songs sassily stating the ‘Sex is in The Heel’, but also embraces the themes of acceptance, friendship and self-expression through numbers like ‘Not My Father’s Son’ and ‘Soul of A Man’.
The show puts its best glam foot forward with great leads and an equally strong ensemble. Much like a good factory distribution line, this production runs as sleek as a well-oiled machine and keeps up the pace from beginning to end. This may not be a blue print production., but having seen both the West End version and the South African premiere, I can gleefully say that the Fugard’s Kinky Boots does the spirit of this musical proud by celebrating the original music and book with care and due consideration to the narrative, while still giving it some personal flair.
So, what is it all about? After the sudden death of his father, London-bound Charlie inherits his family’s small-town shoe factory and discovers that it is but pennies away from bankruptcy. Inspired by friend and factory worker, Lauren, Charlie starts looking outside the conventional shoe box to try to save the factory. The Fates of Fashion (as I would like to believe) orchestrates that Charlie and Lola cross paths with the hit of a heel. From there, it’s a journey of make or break (both personally and professionally) as they set their eyes on the runways of Milan.
What makes the Fugard Theatre the perfect space for Kinky Boots is not only the talent that currently calls it home, but also the actual building. Set Designer, Paul Wills, has brilliantly incorporated the Fugard’s historic factory feel to make the aesthetics part of the discourse in a manner that creates a Kinky Boots world of fluidity and hidden spaces within which Birrie Le Roux’s costumes, and most importantly the spectacular boots, are superbly showcased.
Darren Craig (Charlie) and Earl Gregory (Lola/Simon) draw the audience into that world with a range of emotions. Craig brilliantly steps into the Price & Son shoes of an overwhelmed Charlie and explores every nuance of his confused yet passionate character. Gregory adds his talent to the tale by owning the stage with every vibrant note and sizzling step as Lola, while also showing Simon to be the complex man (with heart, fears and dreams) under the Lola wig. Both Craig and Gregory’s undeniable talent shines even brighter because of their onstage connection.
The energy of Tshepo Ncokoane, Philip Schnetler, Chester Martinez and Emile Doubell as Lola’s Angels reverberates throughout the theatre with every impressive note, strut, dip, slide and swing —they’ll make you squeal with delight. In contrast to the Angels’ liberal vivacity stands the conservative meet-my-fist manly persona of Don (Nathan Ro), which sets the tone for a great climactic build-up. These Kinky Boots contrast are visually enhanced by Louisa Talbot’s choreography that celebrates the journey of the characters on a range of brute and quirky to fabulous and fun.
Kinky Boots benefits greatly from a strong and talented cast who support and complement each other in performance standard and style. Namisa Mdlalosa (Lauren), Lucy Tops (Pat), Lindy Abromowitz Sachs (Trish) keep the audience on a comedy high, with Mdlalosa especially showing great range with her impressive vocal performance. Charl-Johan Lingenfelder’s musical direction celebrates the talent of the cast.
Add to all that the cuteness of the youngsters playing Young Charlie and Young Lola, and you have a sure hit and a show that delights from beginning to end.
This staging of Kinky Boots had me tapping my toes and smiling from ear to ear, with the occasional earnest tear too —it has so much heart! You can catch it at the Fugard Theatre until 27 October 2019, with tickets available online at www.thefugard.com.