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Review | Kinky Boots | Chester Storyhouse | 08/05/2024


Based on the 2005 British film of the same name, Kinky Boots debuted on Broadway in 2013. With a score by Cyndi Lauper and book by Harvey Fierstein they turned the little known film into a modern musical theatre classic. Having thrilled audiences on both sides of the Atlantic, winning the Tony & Olivier for Best New Musical, the original staging is held in high regard. Storyhouse have taken Kinky Boots and restaged it completely. I went to Chester to find out if this risk paid off.


Kinky Boots tells the story of a struggling Shoe Factory inherited by Charlie Price (Danny Becker) from his late father. At a loss for how to turn things around, it isn’t until he meets drag performer Lola (Duane-Lamonte O’Garro) that he finds a way to turn his luck around by making ladies shoes, fit for a man! The show itself asks what exactly a ‘man’ is, making the audience question their own gender beliefs whilst encouraging acceptance. This is explored in ‘What A Woman Wants’, a seductive tango number where the female factory workers explain what they believe a good man to be


It is Cyndi Lauper’s incredible music that is the real star of the show. It is as varied as It is uplifting, mixing genres throughout. What musical director Sarah De Tune however has done with this score is nothing short of sensational, elevating it to the next level. A ridiculously talented ensemble of actor-musicians play a multitude of instruments live on stage as part of the scenes. This adds a real sense of community, which is in direct correlation with the characters pulling together in the factory. It is utterly charming and showcases many of the songs with different orchestrations to the acclaimed original production.


A prime example of this is the rockier and more edgy version of ‘The History of Wrong Guys’ as performed by Charlie’s potential love interest Lauren (Leah Vassell). Often played a little more unassuming with a caricature-like comedy, Vassell has a unique and more self-assured take on Lauren, adding a new dynamic to the show. She is an absolute revelation in this role, commanding the stage and entrancing the audience whenever she is on it. Despite not simply playing for laughs, she has the audience in the palm with her hilarious yet layered performance. She shines alongside Becker, both with equally powerful vocals, guaranteed to give you goosebumps.


Whilst filled with energy, this musical is a rollercoaster of emotions in the best possible way. O’Garro juxtaposed Lola’s confidence alongside her vulnerability beautifully. It is in these moments of vulnerability where O’Garro excels, reducing several audience members to tears in ‘Not My Fathers Son’ and ‘Hold Me in Your Heart’. This gives the show depth and meaning, allowing the audience to enjoy more jubilant moments without reservation.


Concluding in a unique, fun and unexpected way (which I won’t spoil), Kinky Boots is a guaranteed fantastic night out at the theatre. This is Kinky Boots like you’ve never seen it before, it’s a kinky evolution which is fresh, camp and full of heart!


Kinky Boots is on at Chester Storyhouse until Saturday 18 May 2024.






Note: My ticket was gifted. Irrespective of whether a show is gifted or bought, I always ensure that my reviews are fair and based on my honest opinion alone.


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