Review: Kinky Boots, Theatre Royal, Newcastle, until November 10

Callum Francis as Lola
Callum Francis as Lola
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After a show that’s full of heart and ‘sole’ and laced with uplifting music? Then hot foot your way to Kinky Boots.

This was my first time seeing this musical, a spin off from the 2005 film, but I’d heard great things about the true story of a struggling shoe factory in Northampton which is saved from closure by finding its niche fashioning sturdy stilettos for drag queens.

Kinky Boots

Kinky Boots

It’s a story of the underdog and friendship that’s already developed a cult following from its West End success, and the Theatre Royal was filled with well heeled audience members, ladies in red and men in drag, for the tour’s North East debut.

They’ve modelled themselves on the show’s heroine, Lola, a towering tour-de-force of a character who struts into factory owner Charlie Price’s life on a chance meeting one night and changes it forever.

Lola has to be one of the most larger-than-life characters in modern musical theatre and Callum Francis is mesmerising as the charismatic queen with legs up to her ears and an even bigger heart.

As well as looking the part in an enviable wardrobe of shimmering frocks and bodacious basques, Callum shows off an impressive set of pipes in colourful numbers such as Land of Lola and Sex is in the Heel.

At times she’s joined by her merry band of Angels who manage to do the splits, back flip and sashay on factory conveyor belts with gazelle-like ease, all while wearing vertiginous heels. The average woman trying to navigate the steep bank of Grey Street on a Saturday night could probably learn a thing or two from them.

Much like Calendar Girls, this is a musical that’s rooted in Britishness and it’s refreshing to hear regional accents on the stage in familiar settings such as the pub and the factory floor, which are all created with some slick staging.

Though Lola may be as loud as her fabulous frocks, she is more than just a one dimensional character and has a complex back story of acceptance, mirrored by Charlie (played by Joel Harper-Jackson) who is also trying to find his own path in life.

Though an unlikely pairing, the two work brilliantly together as they both fight to save the factory with their shared passion for well-made shoes.

It’s a battle for jobs and acceptance that takes them all the way to the catwalks of Milan as they model their Kinky Boots for the industry’s elite.

Lola rules the runway with a sass that would make Tyra Banks proud in a dazzling denouement of thigh-high boots and rousing music in the form of Raise You Up / Just Be.

Cyndi Lauper penned the original music for the show and her knack for crafting catchy lines flow throughout. She always said Girls Just Wanna Have Fun and in this show, they do just that.