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There’s nothing particularly original about Harvey Fierstein’s award-winning pop musical KINKY BOOTS!

We’ve had threatened factory closures before (Made in Dagenham only recently finished its run at the same address) and flamboyant cross-dressers, too - not to mention pleas for tolerance and acceptance. But this feel-good collaboration with songwriter Cyndi Lauper still makes for an enjoyable if somewhat predictable evening out. Based on the 2005 film (which itself had its origins in a true story), it follows the fortunes of Charlie and his footwear factory when he takes over the running of his late father’s Northampton business with its old fashioned values and faltering finances. The quality may be right, but the styling is disastrous - until, that is, a chance encounter with Soho drag queen Lola gets Charlie and cheeky employee Lauren (an attractively perky Amy Lennox) thinking about ditching the unwanted brogues and catering for a new niche market.

Taking on the role played by Chiwetel Ejiofur on screen, Matt Henry makes a striking (and, at times, vulnerable) Lola, more confident in outrageous heels than in a man’s suit, whilst Killian Donnelly is very much the boy next door as the harassed Charlie struggling to get his brand new boots onto the Milan catwalk despite discord on the factory floor.

But you don’t need sparkling stilettos and a big budget to put on an entertaining – and definitely original – production, even in the West End.  SHOWSTOPPER!  was born out of an experimental workshop in 2007 and has been going ever since. Some of the original crew – including creators Dylan Emery (who acts as a suited MC) and Adam Meggido are still with it. Every night, seven of the dozen performers create a brand new musical from scratch – ostensibly to pitch it to producer Cameron Mackintosh. At the start, the audience is invited to suggest – then choose - location, musical styles and even the title. At the interval, it’s time to tweet suggestions for what should happen next. The rest is up to the quick thinking, immensely talented cast - no matter how often you go, you’ll never see the same show twice. 

On two consecutive evenings, I sampled first “That’s All Volks” set in – you guessed it, a Volkswagen factory (chosen over Ancient Egypt and a Conservative Pig Farm),  then  “Come Back” set in a haunted brothel (in preference to A Theme Park or a Mortuary).

Okay, some of the plotting was a bit rough and ready, but the singing (spoofing musicals as diverse as Once with its guitar-based laments, The Lion King’s African chant, Jesus Christ Superstar and a whole load more) is first rate – with particularly effective harmonising from Pippa Evans and Ruth Bratt. And one can’t help but admire not only the well-honed impro skills which guarantee a unique fun night out but also the ingenuity which turns an umbrella into a can-can skirt in a moment.

Kinky Boots

Adelphi, Strand, WC2R 0NS 

Tube: - Charing Cross

Currently booking till 6th March

£25.00 - £69.50 + premium seats

kinkybootsthemusical.com


Showstopper! The Improvised Musical

Apollo Shaftesbury Avenue, W1D 7ES

Tube: Piccadilly Circus

until 29th November 

£20.00- £50.00 (+ £65 premium seats)

nimaxtheatres.com

showstopperlondon.com


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Kinky Boots & Showstopper! - The Improvised Musical
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