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High-Heeled Hit Smashes Leeds!
Phil Hopkins, Arts & Travel Editor
Kinky Boots strutted its way onto the Leeds Grand Theatre stage last night bringing a breath of fresh theatrical air to West Yorkshire, and leaving no one in any doubt as to why this red hot musical has swept the awards board wherever it has been.

This wonderful Brit Grit musical tells the story of how a Northampton shoe factory re-invents itself from a manufacturer of frumpy footwear for middle-aged men, to a designer of kinky boots for the male drag queen market.

And with playwright Harvey Fierstein’s moniker all it, this is the closest thing I have seen to La Cage Aux Folles since the controversial ‘gay’ musical first burst onto the scene in the early 80’s to a lukewarm reception, later becoming a cult show and a firm favourite of the gay community.

But last night the ‘cagelles’ of the earlier Fierstein Herman tour de force were replaced by high-kicking, figures-to-die-for ‘Angels’, the retinue of drag queens, led by Kayi Ushe as chief drag, Lola, who takes the new range of Price & Son boots to Milan and wins over the world’s fashion critics with pomp and strut.

The show had a certain Full Monty feel about it only instead of Sheffield, this was Northamptonshire and instead of men of steel Joel Harper-Jackson as Charlie, was the shoemaker’s son who inherits dad’s factory, and is charged with bringing it into the 21st century with a brave make or break decision.

Kinky Boots cast. Photo by Helen Maybanks
Cyndi Lauper’s catchy music pounds throughout and the Girls Just Want To Have Fun composer must have had a twinkle in her eye as she penned some of the show’s music, knowing that this was very much about boys having fun in a very girly way!

Paula Lane (Lauren) and Joel Harper-Jackson (Charlie). Photo by Helen Maybanks
The Angel drags were fantastic with high kicks that would have put many professional dancers to shame, and it was summed up perfectly by the woman next to me who commented: “I love that girl’s bottom, sorry man’s, just a little too much, and I don’t know if that’s right for a middle-aged woman!”

Harper-Jackson and Ushe were strong leads, vital to a show that is so heavily dependent on two people, but they were also supported by some sterling performances including Paula Lane as Lauren, Charlie’s admirer in hiding who would make a brilliant Magenta in Rocky Horror thanks to her quirky demeanour and great voice.

Also by Phil Hopkins...
Annie - Still Packin’ ‘Em In After Four Decades
Rodgers & Hammerstein - A Central Theme
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The Magic Of Motown Wows Bradford
Benidorm A Knockout In Leeds!
Demitri Lampra was the bluff, overweight production line worker, Don, as bigoted as they come but a lovable character who finally comes through, whilst Adam Price, as factory production manager George, is ‘middle-England’ who dares to shed his conservatism to wear a pair of kinky boots in Milan.

This is one of those rare musicals that make you say, ‘oh I could see it again’ and, considering, that it is the first time I have witnessed Kinky Boots that is, indeed, the best compliment a composer and script writer could ever hope for.

Do you know, I could see that again!
Leeds Grand Theatre until 20th April 2019

High-Heeled Hit Smashes Leeds!, 10th April 2019, 8:25 AM