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Review: ‘Kinky Boots’ is more than a fun night out

Kinky Boots has begun its very first visit to New Zealand shores, and it’s well worth the wait. With its sassy leading lady and a cast of straight and, shall I say, bent performances, the show lives up to the accolades it has received.

The plot is loosely, actually, very loosely based on the real story of an English shoe factory’s renaissance a few decades back after they started making a line of ‘kinky’ boots for drag performers. The story was dramatised by gay icon Harvey Fierstein and then turned into a musical by the fabulous Cyndi Lauper. 

In this theatrical incarnation of the story, Charlie Price (Nic Kyle) reluctantly takes over the reins of the Price and Son shoe factory in small town Northampton. Boy is he ever reluctant, and is constantly hassled by his pushy social climbing girlfriend to sell the building and move on. 

Then in a twist of fate, he meets Lola (Stewart Adam McKensy), a tall powerhouse who clocks him over the head with a pair knee-high but shoddy boots. From there a quirky friendship is born, and the factory is reborn. Of course, it’s not an easy road, but it is one full of laughs, singing and plenty of drag. 

This is the type of highly polished musical theatre you’d expect from Broadway and the West End, and it certainly is a good night out. 

While Kyle and McKensy have equal billing and bounce off each other very well, the show really hangs on the character of Lola. It is she who really propels this story forward and who, in a good way, dominates it. 

Because of that, it is essential that whoever plays her, gets her right! Lola needs to be both strong and vulnerable, funny, and emotional. The risk is that a drag character is played as parody, and that would just not work.

Thankfully McKensy created the perfect balance. His Lola was wonderfully androgynous – part masculine, part feminine. She purred, she simpered, she shouted, she laughed. She stood up for herself, and she showed her tender side. 

Clearly, LGBTQ themes were at the forefront of the story, but Kinky Boots is more than a single issue show. What comes through very clearly is that ‘tolerance’ and ‘acceptance’ are necessary in all parts of society and cross all sorts of boundaries – from race, to gender, as well as sexism and even generational divides.

The show brings uncomfortable truths about the human condition out into the open, mocks them, while delivering a lot of great tunes, dazzling costumes and a lot of fun. Kinky Boots is more than just a fab night out at the theatre, it is a shining beacon for tolerance. 

KINKY BOOTS – AUCKLAND

26th May – 8 June 2023

Tickets

KINKY BOOTS – WELLINGTON 

Tickets 

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