Birmingham certainly went full out at the press night of Kinky Boots. Based on the 2005 British film and inspired by true events, the musical tells the story of Charlie Price who unexpectedly teams up with drag queen, Lola, to save his Father’s shoe factory business. Kinky Boots made its Broadway debut in 2013, following a successful out-of-town run in Chicago the previous year. The West End production opened in 2015 and this current tour is the first to visit regional venues around the UK.

On paper, the show is destined for success. It boasts a book by Harvey Fierstein, music and lyrics by 80’s superstar Cyndi Lauper, plus direction and choreography by the Tony award-winning Jerry Mitchell. This stellar line-up does instil pressure but on every creative level, it excels.  The book has good pace and perfectly balances comedy and heart. Mitchell’s interpretation of page to stage is seamless and he utilises David Rockwell’s dual level set to its full potential.

Cyndi Lauper’s pop soundtrack is catchy with a great deal of inspiration taken from her specialist 80’s era. It is very easy to see why she was the first solo woman to win the Tony Award for Best Original Score for this show. With a selection of upbeat numbers including the brilliant ‘Everybody Say Yeah’, to heartfelt power ballads such as ‘Hold Me In Your Heart’, there is a lovely mix of tempo throughout.

Joel Harper-Jackson and Kayi Ushe lead the company as Charlie and Lola respectively. Both are exceptional leading men and there is very little to separate them on their strengths. Harper-Jackson carries the weight of the show and is rarely off stage. His rendition of ‘The Soul of a Man’ is hugely emotive and powerful. Ushe is quite frankly extraordinary. The sass is real and this is showcased in every element of his performance. However, it is also lovely to see a counterbalance of his character in ‘Not My Father’s Son’.

The ensemble cast are supremely important in supporting the main characters, with Paula Lane a comedy tonic as Lauren. Lola’s Angels also need be put on a pedestal solely due to their fabulousness.

A flawless, sassy, empowering treat of a show.

Kinky Boots plays at Birmingham Hippodrome until 23 March and continues to tour the UK until November 2019.

***** Jenny Ell