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Blog: This Show's Message Must Go On!

Posted by John Schwab on 8 Jan, 2019

Kinky Boots has announced its closing on Broadway and in the West End.  After a highly successful run at London's Adelphi Theatre, the show's stars see a bright future for the tour...


Charlie's shoes, Lola's boots...

 

Act I

“Along with Fierstein and Mitchell's warmth and conviction, they will propel this show to success."


When Kinky Boots opened over six years ago at the Bank of America Theatre in Chicago, it sprang out of the starting blocks not so much with an almighty bang and a sprint, but more of a pop and a slow and steady jog towards a Broadway finish line.

The most notable critic in the Windy City, Chicago Tribune’s Chris Jones, wrote in his review: “Aside from the lack of an opening number — Lauper will need to write something to replace the currently uninspired melange — Act 1 is in excellent shape, as tryouts go. But Act 2 hits serious problems...“ This is exactly what the industry standard (for Broadway at least) out-of-town tryouts are for - to adapt, to re-write...to try out. The Tribune critic also had a prediction to make,  with Jones adding, “Along with Fierstein and Mitchell's warmth and conviction, they will propel this show to success. If the work that needs to be done gets done, “Kinky Boots,” reviewed Wednesday night, will be a good, solid, highly enjoyable Broadway hit.”

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Well…he wasn’t wrong at all. In fact, they undertook their pre-Broadway tinkering and toying and the critics on opening night were nigh on unanimous in the fact that Mid-town Manhattan had its next feel-good hit, with USA Today’s Elysa Gardner proclaiming, “Lauper imbues textures lifted from the Motown and disco eras with a sizzling theatricality that's bound to put a little more spring in your step and cheer in your heart. Even if you're just wearing flats.”

 Despite going onto the Great White Way as underdogs for awards in the 2012 / 2013 season, the production earned a season-high 13 nominations and 6 Tony wins, including Best Musical and Best Score for Cindy Lauper making her debut as a Broadway songwriter. 


The musical’s success at the Tony Awards made it a forgone conclusion that it would be making its return to the UK - home of the original story. And it wasn’t long before casting began for the London production with Killian Donnelly and Matt Henry portraying the central characters Charlie and Lola. Joining them were Amy Lennox (Lauren), Jamie Baughan (Don), Amy Ross (Nicola) and Michael Hobbs (George).

kinkyboots_cc-1048Kinky Boots London opened on the 15th of September 2015 to more rave reviews with Henry Hitchings of London’s Evening Standard saying, ”With its infectious energy and richly enjoyable performances, Kinky Boots feels like a show that has got legs.” and The Guardian’s Michael Billington stating that “It won me over through the quality of the lead performances, the verve of its staging and its conviction, in its fetishistic worship of thigh-high boots, that there's no business like shoe business.” It went on to win three Laurence Olivier Awards, including Best New Musical.

 

 

 


Act II

 “A story like this, a topic like this, an image like this is so important. "


To paraphrase Chaucer, “All good things must come to an end,” and such is the life of every musical...unless you are Phantom or Les Mis. But leave these two theatrical juggernauts out of it, and it goes without saying that shows must close. However, those that stick in the public psyche... those that wow the crowd… those that have a message that command industry respect and demand audience attention to be heard… those are the ones that leave behind a legacy beyond their Broadway and West End halcyon days.


Kinky Boots Broadway and Kinky Boots London recently announced their closing dates with both shows pulling down their respective curtains within a few months of each other. However, there are national touring productions on both sides of the Atlantic now and they are doing fantastic business, giving the opportunity to audiences to see a show that they might have otherwise not been able to see. There are sparkly red high heel boots treading the boards down under and they’ve recently been spotted in China, as well.

Perhaps Kinky Boots, at least on the UK Tour, has the opportunity for audiences outside London to connect with and have a deeper appreciation of the protagonists plights, as the show contains elements of the classic small-town British stories of The Full Monty and Billy Elliot.


kinkyboots_cc-439Oliver Tompsett, who plays Charlie in the London cast, agrees, “I think there will be more shows like this. We started off with Billy Elliot and then you have this show and Everybody’s Talking About Jamie. Before you know it, it’s going to get broader and we’re going to have a wider spectrum of shows for people because everybody should be catered for in every medium of entertainment.”

In today’s current socio-political climate, where we seem to be defined by our differences and not our similarities, it is imperative that art holds a mirror up to nature and takes the helm to steer society towards a path of being a little more just towards each other. The UK Tour has an opportunity to bring a positive story to a wider audience and opening minds that might otherwise not have had the chance to experience the message of Kinky Boots.

49249091_2189457327971413_1242420234984357888_nCertainly this is what Simon-Anthony Rhoden thinks, as he reflected on what the show has meant to him personally saying, “A story like this, a topic like this, an image like this is so important. This show brilliantly articulates why we should be allowed to be ourselves especially when were aren’t harming anybody else. “

Tompsett agrees as he remembered his upbringing in Oxfordshire, “In my hometown there was a man who used to wear ladies clothes, and me and my friends (who were skater boys) used to snigger at him. When I saw this show, it made me feel physically sick about how I grew up, and not because of my parents but because of society. It made me think very deep and very seriously about how I should react now - and I never approached it until I’d seen this show.”

If Rhoden's and Tompsett's experiences of not only being in the show, but seeing the reactions of audience members who have come from all over the UK and the globe, is something to go by, then the message of hope that Kinky Boots spreads on a nightly basis around the world can spread that message of openness, acceptance, tolerance and forgiveness.

 

But perhaps Rhoden sums it up best when he states what he hopes will be the legacy of Kinky Boots as it prepares to take its final bow in January here in the UK and April in the USA, “There’s generations of people that will benefit from hearing this story, and seeing that there are people just like them in the world and hopefully you don’t have to suffer alone.”

Finally, with that wonderful sentiment ringing our ears, everyone here at Curtain Call would like to extend our best wishes to all at Kinky Boots for a long and successful tour.

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Topics: Community, Guest Blog, backstage

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