KINKY BOOTS

★★★

SEX IS IN THE HEEL

THEATRICAL REVIEW
By Chris dos Santos
19th November 2020

Proshot: a trigger word in the theatre community. For years, there has been debate over whether stage shows should be filmed. One side says it ruins the prestige of live theatre, others say it helps preserve it. Being an Australian where the only things that really get brought over are shows that are either based on various pop-culture pieces or have had extreme critical acclaim or relevance, there are a lot of shows that will simply never come here, so I am all for proshots. Look at 'Hamilton'; in its first week on Disney+ this July, more people viewed that production than those who saw that original cast in 2015. Yes, nothing beats live theatre, but the exposure and reach that a recording can have are huge. 'Kinky Boots', a Tony Best Musical winner, comes hot off the heels of its West End run last year - and straight into Aussie cinemas.

'Kinky Boots' is a true story about a struggling British shoe factory which, after the death of his father, is left in the hands of Charlie. When he stumbles into drag queen Lola, he realises the untapped market of heels made for a drag queen's build. This is met with some tension in the factory, whose workers are used to making shoes for men, not heels for them. This story was adapted into a film in 2005 with Joel Edgerton and Chiwetel Ejofor in the lead roles, but in 2013 it transitioned to the Broadway stage with music and lyrics written by Cyndi Lauper and a book by Harvey Fierstein. This proshot is from the West End production which debuted in 2015, with Killian Donnelly and Matt Henry returning to the roles of Charlie and Lola.

'KINKY BOOTS' TRAILER

The West End production is almost identical to the Broadway version, but does try to remove any Americanisms, making this British story fit its setting better - which, if memory serves me correctly, is the same as the Australian production that toured here in 2017.

As far as proshots go, this is fine. It does a good job of having pick-ups for close-ups and all that jazz. The cast is electric, and if this is your first time seeing the show, it's a great introduction. But Lola is a character built for the stage, so much so that you lose some her charm by not being in the room with her. One thing that stood out to me - more this time than when I saw it live - is this is very much Baby's First Drag Queen. There are also some... "problematic" jokes about transvestites that do not fly.

The timing of this 'Kinky Boots' theatrical run in Australia couldn't come at a better time. A production of 'Hedwig and the Angry Inch' staring cis male Hugh Sheridan was set to debut in Sydney in January 2021. For those unfamiliar, Hedwig is a genderqueer rock singer, and a conversation arose about LGBTQI+ representation in Australian theatre, leading the production to be "postponed". The majority of 'Kinky Boots' productions have had LGBTQI+ people playing Lola - as goes with this recording - and having a person who is queer in the role just elevates the performance, adding another layer to the show.

'Kinky Boots' is a fun show that you can't help but be sucked into with its glitz and glam. There are a lot of fun musical numbers to keep you invested.

This recording did do something I can't stand - and that's showing the audience. This isn't a concert film or stand-up comedy. I want to be sucked into the story as if I was there - and every time, we got an audience reaction shot that took me out of it.

'Kinky Boots' is a fun show that you can't help but be sucked into with its glitz and glam. There are a lot of fun musical numbers to keep you invested - 'Sex is in the Hell', 'The History of Wrong Guys', 'Everybody Say Yeah', and 'Raise You Up' do what any great musical theatre song should do: inspiring positivity with catchy tunes.

While theatres are slowly opening back - at least in Sydney - it's going to be a very long time before it feels safe to enjoy a show again. In the meantime, 'Kinky Boots' is here to fill the void.

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