Review - Kinky Boots at Northampton's Royal & Derngate

Kinky Boots
Kinky Boots

If Northampton was a human being and had a face to pull an expression with, I would imagine it would appear very surprised.

The likes of Chicago, New York, London and Paris may strut their stuff in and out of film and theatre scripts, but Northampton rarely gets a mention.

Now, however, this unassuming Midlands town has its very own theatrical footwear to strut with, in the shape of Kinky Boots, the Olivier award-winning musical about a Northampton shoemaker breaking away from tradition in search of his niche market.

The show has finally made it to a stage in its hometown of Northampton, at the Royal and Derngate, and it feels quite special to see this now famous musical played where it is set.

Inspired by the real life story of Steve Pateman, the central character in Kinky Boots is Charlie Price (played by Joel Harper-Jackson), who puts aside his goal of living a successful life in London, to take over his late father's Northampton shoe factory.

Charlie finds an unlikely kindred spirit in Lola, an ultra glamorous cross dresser (a.k.a. Simon from Clacton) with a penchant for high heels, none of which last very long under her weight.

The niche market needed to secure the survival of the family shoe factory is stumbled upon and Lola steps in to save the day, prompting many more opportunities for deeper questions about identity and acceptance to be explored.

The story is now so closely linked with the film and the song Kinky Boots, I was nervous about seeing it set to an unfamiliar score, penned by pop icon Cyndi Lauper. My fears came to nothing however as the music is stunning, made up of memorable hit after memorable hit and ranging from celebrations of joy and dance to more introspective ballads.

I emerged from the show as a new fan of Callum Francis, who plays Lola. His voice is really powerful and slightly reminiscent of Michael Jackson. His performance was thoroughly charismatic and entertaining as he explored the complexities of what is an undeniably layered character. I particularly enjoyed his sense of comic timing and line delivery which prompted plenty of laugh-out-loud moments for the audience.

The cast members were strong throughout, but I was also very impressed by former Corrie star Paula Lane as Lauren. The musical has definitely brought a lot more humour and life to Lauren, compared to her presentation in the film, and Paula portrayed the love-stricken factory worker brilliantly.

The press night had a minor interruption caused by a fire alarm going off in the theatre and an evacuation of the auditorium. All credit to the cast as their performances seemed unaffected by the unplanned pause. The show must go on, after all, and I was certainly glad it did.

Kinky Boots will run in Northampton until October 6. For ticket information, see www.royalandderngate.co.uk