Kinky Boots Review

We only wish we’d worn heels!

Such is the mesmerizing energy of the Fugard Theatre’s production of Kinky Boots that even the most ardent of flat-shoe wearers longs to be grooving and moving with Lola and her angels in 6-inch platform heels.

After we were blown away by Kunene and the King at the iconic Fugard Theatre, we decided that Cape Town was worth exploring a little more. There is just something so magical about that tiny, beautiful theatre that unabashedly delivers contemporary classics while being tucked into the oldest streets of South Africa – and what better way to enjoy than through the audacious Mathew Wild-directed original South African production of Kinky Boots!

Darren Craig as Charlie Price in Kinky Boots

We don’t want to divulge too many details about the storyline because we really hope you see it, but like any fake Harry Potter fan can tell you, there is a movie if you need to cheat. What we can tell you is that Charlie Price (Darren Craig) is trying to save his family’s Northampton shoe factory by selling to an as-yet unserved niche market: drag queens. And the drag queen of the hour is Lola, masterfully brought to life by a truly magnificent performance from Earl Gregory.

Paul Wills’ set design really drew us in to the story and added to the story in beautiful ways. For the first act, drab brown Price & Son shoe boxes line the stage and reflect the dismal and uninspired environment of the old shoe factory. As the story progresses and we return for the second act, Lola’s influence and Charlie’s newfound confidence are portrayed by sexy, red shoe boxes that have replaced the old boxes and create an air of excitement for what is to follow.

The music and lyrics are a masterpiece by Cyndi Lauper that weaves its way through the production. Louisa Talbot ensured that every number is choreographed to perfection such that even with the entire cast on stage there never appears to be clutter or congested space. The fourth wall is broken as Lola’s angels strut into the audience and transport us to Milan to become guests of a one-of-a-kind fashion show, made even more spectacular by Birrie le Roux’s stunning costumes.

Earl Gregory (centre) as Lola and her Angels in Kinky Boots

The storyline presents increasingly relevant themes around gender, sexuality, tolerance and self-love. But it is without a doubt the tight butts and endless splits and kicks done in outrageously high heels by Lola and her angels that really steal the show. Juxtaposed with the dull colours of a Northampton shoe factory – bravo to Tim Mitchell’s light design here – and Craig’s perfectly executed nervy nerdiness of Charlie Price, the production absorbs you so that you easily forget you are in an intimate theatre in Cape Town and not a larger-than-life Broadway or West End stage where Kinky Boots has previously found a home. From the opening scene where the terrific Travis Turner (as young Lola) taps his red high heels along lamplit work desks to the masterful boxing scene where Lola takes on Don, the town bully (portrayed to the unlikeable and yet loveable T by Nathan Ro); and finally the final number ‘Raise You Up/Just Be’ that left every member of the sell-out crowd on their feet, the production was first-class – as were the accents mind you! Namisa Mdlalose, Amy Campbell, and the rest of the cast were so memorable and outstanding we were devastated when the show came to an end.

So for ladies, gentlemen and those who have yet to make up their minds: make your way to the Fugard Theatre before 27 October when this hot-heeled production wheels out of town.

Kinky Boots is on at the Fugard Theatre in Cape Town until October 27, 2019. Tickets are available from the box office and the Fugard Theatre website.

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