The original British-American movie (2005) was inspired by real life events. The W.J. Brooks Shoe Company in Northampton was founded in 1898, and continued as a very successful family business for the next century making 4,000 pairs of traditional shoes and employing 70 people. But then cheaper imports from the Far East began to destroy the British shoe industry causing redundancies.
Like a fairy godmother, the owner of a shop in Folkestone requested an order of thigh high PVC boots for cross-dressers and drag queens male size and the entrepreneurial company manager Steve Pateman saw the potential of a diverse new market, and produced a range called Divine Footwear.
The amazing change of fortune for W. J Brooks was featured in BBC documentary, “Trouble At The Top” in 1999. This inspired a fictionalised version of the story for a comedy film and “Kinky Boots” premiered in 2005 with the tag line: “How far would you go to save the family business?”
From big screen to the Broadway stage in 2013, winning six Tony Awards, including Best Musical, Kinky Boots features a lively score and lyrics by Cyndi Lauper, (the legendary composer of such enduring hits as “Time After Time,” “Girls Just Want to Have Fun,”), foot tapping choreography by Jerry Mitchell and a book by Harvey Fierstein.
The reinvented storyline features Charlie Price who is the fourth generation of his family business, Price & Son, a shoe factory in Northampton, but is not keen to take over from his father and plans to move to London with Nicola, his ambitious girlfriend who wants to escape small town life. But when his father suddenly passes away, he inherits the shoe factory, which is on the verge of bankruptcy.
The set is all about minimalist and flexible staging and props. A front screen shows the brick wall exterior with the Price & Sons sign, opening up into the factory with a moveable platform, boxes of shoes and a bustling crowd of staff. Desperate to follow his father’s legacy and save the family business, Charlie finds inspiration after a fortuitous encounter with a transvestite cabaret singer, Lola who inspires Charlie with the offer of a contract to manufacture a line of mansize fetish footwear for her drag queen dancers, The Angels.
With Lola in charge of design alongside the fun and funky, Lauren, as project manager, the cobblers get into production mode with samples selected and prototype created for sparkling knee high, latex and leather high heel boots.
Like a mash up of “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert” with a dazzling dash of “Sex and the City”, it’s a heartwarming story to reveal how important fashion is in helping people whatever race, class and sexuality, to express themselves with gay abandon.
Don, a down to earth factory worker is steeped in tradition where men are macho and women are feminine; challenging him to a duel of wits, Lola plays a central role in illustrating how we must accept people for whom they are without prejudice and discrimination. Charlie and Lola may be worlds apart in social background but their business collaboration transforms into a buddy buddy friendship. Portrayed with a rather innocent boyish charm, Joel Harper-Jackson, Charlie gradually opens his eyes to see what matters most, to take a change of direction both at work and in his love life.
With gleeful energy, expect a mixture of pop, raunchy rock, torch song ballads and disco Drag Queen numbers. Slick choreography throughout is jazzed up with acrobatic flair for a brilliant scene on and off the fast moving conveyor belt.
Kahi Ushe stars as the dynamic diva Lola with exhilarating poise and pizzazz, tough cookie humour as well as a heart of gold. The Angels are stunningly beautiful, strutting the catwalk to show how these sparkling red boots are made for dancing and prancing ….not just walking.
As colourful and camp as Christmas, this high kicking, rom-com musical is a crazy antidote to the traditional pantomime – jolly, joyful festive entertainment for all the family.
“Kinky Boots” is at the Edinburgh Playhouse
Monday 10 December, 2018 to 5 January, 2019
UK Tour 2019:
Scottish Ballet’s Christmas Treat: Ingredients: 1 rose, 1 kitchen maid, 2 cheeky stepsisters, 1 fairy godmother, a scattering of insects, a sprinkling of ballgowns and tuxedos, 1 Prince. Mix together with vibrant colour, wit and magic for a delicious confection.
This recipe is not an overly sugary sweet but a cool, contemporary revamp of the classic Fairytale, relating the rags to riches journey with richly emotional and dramatic story telling. First choreographed by Christopher Hampson for New Zealand Ballet in 2007, Cinderella was given its European Premiere by Scottish Ballet three years ago and is now touring Scotland for the Festive Season in a glamorous revival.
A prologue transports us back to a miserable, wet day as mourners gather under black umbrellas for the funeral of Cinderella’s mother. The young girl plants a solitary rose on the grave, the flower being a recurring motif throughout to represent the beauty of nature, remembrance and love.
This dark, stark image of death is a vital starting point as we then see Cinderella at work in a cold kitchen, unloved by her stepmother and teased by her two stepsisters. In her pale blue dress and apron, she pirouettes to a gypsy folk tune, highlighting her lonely existence. The bullying culture in this dysfunctional, disjointed family may seem a humorous prank, but is very much a modern message.
In a traditional Upstairs Downstairs scenario, meanwhile the sisters are in gleeful mood as they prepare for the Royal Ball. A flurry of dressmakers and cobblers present a flourish of frocks and shoes to sample with vivacious energy, as well as a much required dance lesson with hilarious results.
Kayla-Maree Tarantolo and Grace Horler portray the petite wee one and her gangling tall sister with fabulous, flamboyant, fun with no hint of the ugly stepsisters in a pantomimic burlesque. Trying desperately to fit their feet into the lost slipper is a scene of comic genius.
The stunning Art Nouveau stage and costume designs by Tracy Grant Lord are integral to the narrative which unfolds scene by scene like observing the dramatic action played out inside a child’s toy Theatre. The rose bush has blossomed into a giant tree with Rennie MacIntosh–style artistry as a decorative backdrop; enter a dreamland world of wonder and magical spells, where wishes do come true.
The intricately crafted choreography is a seamless flow with perfect quick-changing tempo for a very bouncy, very green grasshopper, to a fluttering flight of silk moths and a fast spinning web of spiders. Surrounding the Fairy Godmother is her beautiful bouquet of swirling pink Roses, her garland of girls.
With a nod to Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, the Ballroom scene is exquisitely staged with the Prince’s guests in slinky silk gowns, white tie and tails, waltzing in perfect unison.
Centre stage, Cinderella (the sylphic Sophie Martin) is transformed from ragged waif to regal Ballerina as she is swept off her feet by the charming Prince (Barnbaby Rook-Bishop) in their dazzling duets. Pure romance.
The Prokofiev score captures the full orchestral colours to dramatise the mood, from light to dark, quirky characterisations and lively wit through a flowing melody, harmony, pace. Shifting from moments of spontaneity to slow, slow elegant grace, it is rich in Russian, romantic sentiment, the music weaving its magic with seductive charm.
With a bold rainbow of colours, there’s a myriad of marvellous costumes for the tailors & spiders, shoemakers & moths, stepsisters, Roses, Royal Ball partygoers; not forgetting the Kafka-esque metamorphosis from delightful dance tutor to grinning grasshopper. The characters imaginatively come to life through facial expression, gesture and the fine detail of each and every dancing step.
This is a Cinderella for today, preserving the traditional magical tale with an underlying darker mood to reflect on a young girl grieving for her mother, as well as the art of kindness, finding love and romance. Fantasy meets Reality.
This vibrant, vivacious production may date from 2007, but is as fresh as a daisy, or perhaps more aptly, a blossoming pink rose. As Scottish Ballet prepares for its 50th birthday in 2019, this kicks off the sparkling year of celebration “en pointe.”
Scottish Ballet on tour:
Festival Theatre, Edinburgh, 8-30 December, 2018
Theatre Royal, Glasgow, 4-12 January, 2019
His Majesty’s, Aberdeen, 16-19 January, 2019
Eden Court, Inverness, 23-26 January, 2019
Theatre Royal, Newcastle, 30 January-2 February, 2019