REVIEW: KINKY BOOTS IN CONCERT (Theatre Royal Drury Lane)


Cyndi Lauper and Harvey Fierstein’s Tony and Olivier Award-winning Kinky Boots The Musical hasn’t been seen in the West End since 2019. Now as part of a concert series at Theater Royal Drury LaneKinky Boots gleefully struts back onto the stage showing audiences just what they’ve been missing- sex in a red heel!

Based on a true story, Kinky Boots revolves around Charlie Price who has reluctantly inherited his father’s shoe factory. Trying to live up to his father’s legacy and save the family business from bankruptcy, Charlie finds inspiration in the form of the fabulous drag queen Lola and together they work out what is best for both of them while attempting to change hearts and minds along the way.

Bringing the uplifting musical to life for this concert are Cedric Neal (Back To The Future, Motown, Songs For A New World, The View Upstairs) as Lola, Joel Harper-Jackson (COCK, Kinky Boots UK Tour, Chess The Musical in Concert ) as Charlie Price and Courtney Bowman (Six, Legally Blonde, Everybody’s Talking About Jamie) as Lauren. Joining them are a who’s who of musical talent including Ahmed Hamad (The Addams Family, Rent) as Harry, Ashley Samuels (Oklahoma!, Hairspray) as Referee Angel, Daisy Wood-David (Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, Hair) as Nicola , Hannah Lowther (Millennials, the TikTok) as Gemma Louise, Nikki Bentley (Wicked) as Pat and Sean Needham (9 to 5, Kinky Boots, Mamma Mia!) as Don.

As Charlie Price, Joel Harper-Jackson gives a commanding performance. In a fantastic contrast from last week’s more legit performance as Freddie in Chess, he soars through the pop score with finesse. His Charlie’s Soliloquy and Soul Of A Man were the best I’ve ever heard and his Charlie is the quirky, little bit awkward, prince we can all fall in love with.

As Lauren, Courtney Bowman gives an outstanding performance making the role her own and instantly grabbing the audience’s attention when onstage. Her off-beat Lauren is fresh and funky, delivering a stunning rendition of The History of Wrong Guys which had the audience eating out of the palm of her hand.

As Lola, Cedric Neal was astounding. Encompassing the part like no other, his Lola was a revelation from start to finish serving attitude, vulnerability, heartfelt emotion and strength. It was incredibly empowering to see an authentic performance of this part, laid bare. Without the usual Lola costumes, complicated choreography or makeup, every note sang and every line spoke seemed to have more meaning than ever before. Neal wowed the audience early on with his Land of Lola vocal and he didn’t stop there, each opt up and each trill adding to the audience’s appreciation which accumulated in a mid-show standing ovation after the emotional Hold Me in Your Heart which left the audience (and Neal) in floods of tears. Neal’s performance of Lola will no doubt go down as musical theater legend. Bravo!

While we were taking our seats, there were murmurs around the audience about how the show would fair without it’s fabulous sets, costumes, choreography and makeup. Director Omar F. Okai put these fears to rest as the cast moved around the stage, using two sets of stairs to create different locations and scenes. Similarly, Cyndi Lauper’s pop score and Harvey Fierstein’s book stood strong on their own while Lola’s Angels had simple choreography throughout, adding to the overall fabulous experience of this very special Kinky Boots.

So far Theater Royal Drury Lane’s concert series has been a rolling success with last week’s Chess, Kinky Boots this week and new musical Treason on 22nd August. With the success of these concerts, it would be nice to see them continue and hopefully become the West End’s answer to City Center Encores! currently playing Into The Woods in New York. Tickets for Treason can still be purchased from the Theater Royal Drury Lane’s website and if Chess and Kinky Boots are anything to go by, Treason is set to be something very special. Kinky Boots The Musical in concert was a fun, fabulous, empowering and emotional evening that proved the award winning musical is still as relevant and uplifting as when it first premiered in a full production or in a simple concert format.

★★★★★

Reviewed by Stuart James

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