Act 2

img_0185

At last, the interval is over, and we are back in the theatre for Act 2! So often in the theatre, the second act is more exciting than the first, and for me, this certainly was the case with the shows that I am about to describe. These shows, mostly in the West Midlands, in Birmingham, Coventry and Solihull, were a real treat. Different in so many ways, and a real extravaganza of theatrical productions.

One of my favourite Andrew Lloyd Webber musicals opens this second act. I first saw Sunset Boulevard shortly after it opened in the West End in 1993, with Patti Lupone playing the part of Norma Desmond, the former Hollywood star of the silent screen. Since then I have seen others, including Glenn Close, play that part, but in the latest touring production that I saw in Birmingham, Ria Jones takes the lead. She was superb; not only capturing the character of the delusional fantasist that is Norma Desmond, but also filling the theatre with her wonderful soprano voice. With One Look and As If We Never Said Goodbye, were sung with such clarity; here was a leading lady who owned the stage, ably supported by Danny Mac playing the part of Joe Gillis, the young Hollywood writer, and an enthusiastic cast and orchestra. The standing ovation, not always deserved in theatres, was in my opinion, rightly accorded to this cast and this production.

From one big musical to another, and for me, a first, as I have never before seen a live theatrical production streamed to a cinema. This was Follies, the Stephen Sondheim musical currently playing at the National Theatre on London’s South Bank. Unable to get tickets for that show in London, I was able to see it streamed live to a cinema here in Coventry. Sondheim’s musicals are never the easiest, and Follies, rarely performed because it is such a big show requiring such a large cast, has nevertheless been a triumph this year at the National Theatre. Again, I saw Follies at its last West End incarnation back in 1987, and really wanted to see it again. Live streaming is such a wonderful way to do this. Admittedly, there is not the same atmosphere as there would be at a live production in the theatre, but the sound quality, the close ups, and the camera angles more than make up for that. Two and a half hours, without an interval as Sondheim directs, is quite a feat, and takes a lot of concentration, but it was worth the effort!

The cinema is not somewhere I go often, as I prefer live theatre, but having read reviews in the newspapers and heard film critics speaking of this film, I felt compelled to see it. Call Me by Your Name is already well ahead in the race for this year’s Oscar nominations, and deservedly so. I read the novel by André Aciman, on which the film is based, in the week before seeing the film. It is a coming-of-age love story between a precocious Italian teenage boy and a slightly older American man. Beautifully filmed during an Italian summer in a cultured multi-lingual household, it deals with their difficult relationship, and their relationships with other local young women, without being seedy, sensational, or offensive. The atmosphere is one of culture, music, antiquities and lazy summer days, but beneath the surface there is the not-so-secret emotional and sexual turmoil. The chemistry between Timothée Chalamet as the young Italian boy Elio and Armie Hammer as the older American Oliver, is fantastic. The pain and the pleasure of first love is dealt with sensitively, but the climax is inevitable, the sadness is real, but above all, the tenderness of this film is its star quality.

A friend of mine is a member of a local amateur theatrical society, who this year were producing the well known musical Fiddler on the Roof. Set in Russia in 1905, it tells the story of Tevye, a father of five daughters, and his attempts to maintain his Jewish traditions in the face of outside influences, and his headstrong daughters who wish to marry for love and move away from their Jewish traditions, and all this at a time when an edict of the Tsar is evicting Jews from their village. We were treated to a very polished performance of this classic at a theatre in Solihull, as we heard the well known songs, Matchmaker, Matchmaker, If I Were a Rich Man, Sunrise, Sunset, Miracle of Miracles, Do You Love Me? and Anatevka, but perhaps the highlight of the show was the wonderfully directed scene of Tevye’s dream, but maybe I am biased as my friend was playing the part of Grandma Tzeitel, and I shall never see her in the same light again!

More years ago than I care to remember, when I was a fourteen year old at an all boys Grammar School, I was in the cast of the annual school play. That year it was Hobson’s Choice, Harold Brighouse’s play about a shoe shop proprietor with three headstrong daughters, set in Salford in 1880. Seeing the play advertised at The Crescent Theatre in Birmingham recently, I just knew that I had to see it, if for no other reason than to re-live my boyhood memories. Obviously the script had long since left my memory, but words and phrases came back to me, and it was wonderful to take myself back all those years ago and remember the days when I “trod the boards”.

Spalding Grammar School Play “Hobson's Choice” 1961

(School Play production of Hobson’s Choice, 1963)

And so to the Grand Finale! Every year just before the Christmas Pantomime Season, the Birmingham Hippodrome, the city’s largest theatre, stages a production of The Nutcracker by its resident ballet company, The Birmingham Royal Ballet. This magical production, choreographed by Sir Peter Wright is set at a family party on Christmas Eve. A visiting magician brings gifts for the children including a Nutcracker Doll for the daughter Clara. When the guests have departed Clara creeps downstairs to look for the Nutcracker, but as the clock strikes midnight, the room seems to grow and giant rats attack Clara. The Nutcracker doll springs to life, and aided by the toy soldiers given as a gift to her brother, defends her. So we are transported to a land where the Nutcracker is turned into a handsome prince and dances with Clara as he takes her to the Land of Snow. In this fantastic world, the magician puts on a grand entertainment for Clara, where she joins in many of the dances and is finally transformed into the Sugar Plum Fairy, the ballerina of her dreams. The Nutcracker Prince dances with her and as the dancing reaches a climax, so the dream ends and Clara wakes up at the foot of the Christmas tree where she had gone at midnight to find her Nutcracker doll. This really was a beautiful production in every way, the dancing, the music, the costumes and the set, and for me a fitting climax to a few weeks of theatre and film of so many different kinds. Hopefully you have enjoyed your trip to the theatre with me as much as I have enjoyed being there, and telling you about it!

Advertisements

Act 1

Image

There is a common saying that you can wait all day for a bus, and then three come along together! That saying has particular relevance to what I am writing about today for two reasons. First of all, regular readers of my blog will have noticed that nothing has appeared from me over the past three weeks. I apologise for that, and at the same time inform you that this is the first of two or maybe three blog posts on the same theme, which although not appearing together like the buses, will be ready for your perusal within the next seven days! The second reason that this saying about buses has relevance is that, having been in France for much of the summer, I have not be able to have my regular fixes of theatrical entertainment, but within the space of these three blog free weeks, I have been to the theatre eleven times! Just like the buses, I have waited all summer, and then eleven productions come along at once! So I want to share with you, some of my thoughts on these shows.

Witness for the Prosecution is a play adapted from an Agatha Christie short story first published in 1925 called Traitor Hands. It was in 1951 that the story was adapted as a play. It is currently been staged in London in the unique and most unusual setting of the Council Chamber of the former Greater London Council at County Hall, on the South Bank over the river from the Houses of Parliament. Whoever had the idea of staging it in this chamber certainly hit on a winner. The play itself is riveting, and without giving away the ending, there is a real twist in the tale, which my friends and I never expected, but it is the setting which gives the atmosphere, and for the courtroom scenes the legal dignitaries sit on high in the officials’ seats in the chamber, whereas the other scenes take place in the round on a stage built for this production in the centre of the chamber, around which we all sat in the former Councillors’ seats. The acting was superb, indeed at times it did not feel like a play that one was watching, but that one was actually sitting in a courtroom witnessing a real court case, and wondering how this is all going to end. This production runs until next March, and if you enjoy a good thriller, and can get a seat, this is a play not to be missed. I am so glad that I had the chance of seeing it here.

The following day, since we were staying in London, we went to a West End Show that I had wanted to see ever since it opened back in 2013. I had bought the CD some years ago, and love the music. Sadly, I was disappointed with the show. The Book of Mormon has been very successful on Broadway and in London, it has endeared many people to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and the Church itself has mounted a huge campaign to promote itself on the back of this show, even buying advertising space on the sides of London buses and in the programme, but for me the mockery of someone else’s religion, however strange we may consider that religion to be, went just that bit too far. With modern day theatre, one is used to strong language, sex, nudity and all kinds of strange things happening on stage, and I would never want to go back to the days prior to 1968 in the United Kingdom, when the Lord Chamberlain of the Royal Household had the power to censor any play wishing to be licensed for public performance, it is just personally that I did not like the mockery and the crude language. I am sure that I was in a minority that night in the theatre, as most of the audience were loving every minute of it, but it just did not do it for me! Well, you win some, you lose some!

Four days later, I was back in London to see another play. Many years ago, I had read Michael Campbell’s novel Lord Dismiss Us which is set in an English boys’ public school in the 1960s and which deals with the love affair between two boys, together with the internal politics of the school itself. Carleton, a sixth former loves Allen, a boy two years his junior. At the same time, the headmaster is trying to enforce a policy against such liaisons. When the book was written it was a contemporaneous work, now however, it depicts a school at a period in history because the book was published in the same year, 1967, that homosexuality between consenting adults was legalised in the United Kingdom. To mark the fiftieth anniversary of that legalisation, the novel has been dramatised and after a spell at the Edinburgh Festival, Lord Dismiss Us was playing in London for a short season. This is not a production aiming to shock or sensationalise the subject, but following the direction of the novel,  just seven actors tell the story very cleverly with pathos and humour, and present the characters in the school, both staff and boys, in both a realistic and yet tender manner. The Headmaster’s wife, played brilliantly by Julie Teal, strives to support her husband in his quest to enforce his policies throughout the school, and at the same time wanting to support the Chaplain, who has a rather different agenda. The Headmaster and the Chaplain, it should be said, never appear together on stage, and these two characters were played by the same actor, David Mullen, which really heightened the tension that one felt was present in the school. Two huge parts, but ones that he portrayed so differently and yet perfectly. Like the novel it is a play about power struggles, and who is in charge, the masters or the pupils? It is about bullying, falling in love, and being forced out because of what you are, and in all this the play succeeds. It was a wonderful evening of theatrical entertainment, but one that asked the audience serious questions.

The fourth show that I saw, was a local amateur group’s production of the musical Happy Days. This is a show based on the American television series of the same name which aired in the 1970s. The story of the musical is taken from the original sitcom, and concerns the kids’ plans to save Arnold’s malt shop (akin to an ice cream parlour), from demolition by hosting a dance contest and wrestling match. It is rather a silly story, but given the popularity of the original series and the making of the character Fonzie, or Arthur Fonzarelli, and the actor Henry Winkler into a big star, it is not surprising that it was turned into a stage musical. I can’t say that I really enjoyed this show, and I cannot remember one of the songs apart from the title song, but it was a brilliant choice for this company. Here in Coventry, we are very fortunate to have a flourishing amateur theatrical scene. One of the groups, which has produced a number of West End actors, singers and dancers, is the Coventry Youth Operetta Group, which puts on two major shows each year. In this production, the leads were strong, having worked their way up over the years, but what made this the ideal choice this year was the fifty strong younger members of the company who were all given roles and who quite obviously enjoyed what they were doing. If nothing else, the exuberance and the joy which this cast showed, was something that everyone will remember, and of which they can be really proud. If local amateur theatre is to continue and flourish, then this is something to be encouraged and supported.

From amateur theatre, to a West End musical on a UK tour, and the production of  Beautiful, The Carole King Musical at the Birmingham Hippodrome. In recent years there have been numerous musicals, which showcase the songs of various artists. Buddy, the story of Buddy Holly, opened in 1989, and was the first of these so-called ‘Jukebox Musicals’. I enjoyed Buddy back then, because it told the story of Buddy Holly and incorporated his songs into his life story. For me, others since, have just been an excuse to sing the songs of individuals or groups; some successful, others not. Beautiful, in my opinion, falls into the category of those that succeed. Before I went to this show, I had obviously heard of Carole King, but did I know much about her? No not really. Did I know which songs she wrote? Again, no not really. But I came away thinking, of course I knew those songs, I was brought up with many of them, and those well known songs were cleverly woven into the story of her life which was told on that stage. On Broadway, The Locomotion, You’ve lost that loving feeling, It might as well rain until September, Up on the roof, Take good care of my baby, You’ve got a friend and Oh! Carol, to name just some of the songs from the show. The night we went to Birmingham, the Hippodrome was packed, all one thousand eight hundred and fifty seats, as it was all week. So popular was it, that it is returning to Birmingham in February for another week.

I called this post Act 1, which means, of course, that there is more. So there now follows a short interval, after which I will be back with more shows in Act 2!

Factory Girls

Photo on 11 Oct 2017 at 15_52_07

“Would you like some complimentary tickets for a show I’m producing which is going to the Warwick Arts Centre in Coventry? It’s by a Korean company.” This was the question asked of us by a friend who is the International Projects Producer at the Farnham Maltings Theatre in Surrey. Always happy to go to the theatre, and to experience something new and different, we said that we would love to have the tickets and would look forward to the performance.

The Farnham Maltings Theatre is currently involved in a year long exchange programme between the United Kingdom and South Korea, and this production is just one of a number of projects funded by the Arts Councils of the two countries, with the aim of encouraging “an exchange of practice, ideas and skills between the two countries with the ambition of creating long term, collaborative relationships between artists and communities around the world.”

With that knowledge we went along to the Arts Centre, on the campus of the University of Warwick last night with four friends, not quite knowing what to expect from the performance. A leaflet handed out as we entered the small studio theatre, gave us a synopsis of the story, and some words from the director about the play and the author Chin-O Yu, who apart from having a literary career, taught constitutional law in Korea during the Japanese occupation of that country, and eventually drafted the Constitution of the Republic of Korea. He wrote Factory Girls in 1931, and it was originally serialised in a newspaper, but was censored by the Japanese authorities.

The play itself is set during the Japanese occupation of Korea in the 1930s, and follows a young eighteen year old girl from a working class family called Oksun, who has been working in a textile factory for three years, enduring hard work and oppression. The other girls are worried that their pay could be cut again even though they are working in these harsh conditions. One day Oksun is given a bonus, and ordered by the foreman to spy on her friends, whom they suspect of rallying the workers. Oksun discovers that the other girls are discussing poverty, recession and strikes. What she hears, and the events which follow make Oksun decide that the time has come to find her voice. Will she tell her Japanese boss?

What I have not told you so far is that all of this is spoken in Korean and Japanese! Happily for us, there were English surtitles, digitally displayed above the acting space. But this was a different kind of acting, it was not just dialogue, but also narrative description spoken by the actors, describing others, or even describing themselves, their actions and their feelings. The spoken word was combined with wonderful dance, almost balletic in nature, and very slow intricate movement. Added to this the sound effects of the factory, and the workers at their lunch breaks, the knocking on doors and so on, were all made by the actors. This was indeed a very different kind of theatre, but the combination of all of these elements brought Oksun’s story to life in a fascinating way.

I had assumed that the four actors were all female, and when they first appeared all wearing the same style dress and woollen socks, I thought no more of it. Slowly it dawned on me that in fact there was only one female actor, the rest were all young men. The female played the part of Oksun, but the men played the parts of the other girls in the factory, and the foreman and the Japanese boss.

The performance only lasted just over an hour, but that was long enough for the story to be told, and long enough to divide one’s attention between the action on stage and the surtitles above it. However, it was a fascinating evening, and although the story was harrowing at times, and did not end happily, the telling of the story was beautifully portrayed in these different ways. The actors were superb, especially the young lady who played Oksun, and we were delighted to have this unique opportunity of seeing this company’s first UK performance. To our friend Hannah, who gave us the tickets, we say “well done and thank you very much!” Photo on 12 Oct 2017 at 18_42_59

Cats in Coventry

IMG_1955

A scene from the Jellicle Ball at the production of CATS at The Albany Theatre, Coventry (photo used with permission)

Jellicle Cats come out tonight,  Jellicle Cats come one and all,

The Jellicle Moon is shining bright,  Jellicles come to the Jellicle Ball.

(T.S. Eliot)

Last night I attended the Jellicle Ball! And what a Ball it was! You may have read a previous post of mine back in April, when I wrote a review for a performance of the musical Fame, which was produced by a local Youth Theatre Group here in Coventry called Wing-It Theatre. Over the past few years they have produced a number of musicals including Spring Awakening, Hair, 42nd Street, West Side Story, Hairspray, Rent, and The Little Mermaid. This week they have presented their summer production and it was Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cats, a delightful show based on T.S. Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats. To my mind this was their most ambitious and most successful show to date.

The musical tells the story of a tribe of cats called the Jellicles, and the night that they make what is known as the Jellicle choice, and decide which cat will ascend to the Heaviside Layer, and then come back to a new life. One by one the cats tell their stories, and poor old Grizabella, the Glamour Cat, tries to join in but is shunned by the other cats, she is, however, able to have her say as she sings her song, Memory. Eventually she is the one chosen to go to the Heaviside Layer by the leader of the tribe, Old Deuteronomy, to be reborn to a new Jellicle life.

It is strange that a series of poems about cats should be turned into a piece of musical theatre, but it works, and it gives the performers ample opportunity to showcase many different styles of song and dance. Last night’s performance was superb, there simply is no other word for it. The youngest performer was eight years old, and the oldest in their early twenties; add to that the fact that the production team are all twenty somethings themselves, and we are talking about a very young company, but the wealth of talent meant that this production was worthy of a professional company.

Photo on 18 Aug 2017, 22_15_05The actor who played Grizabella brought the house to its feet with her rendition of the song Memory. I saw Elaine Paige play this role in the original London production back in the 1980s, but last night, Grizabella’s clarity and pathos were equal to that of a West End performer. Indeed the musicality, the diction, the choreography, and the simple but important mimicking of the feline gestures were all first class, and in one sense it is unfair to single out one character, because there were no weak performers in this production at all.

It was great fun to hear the stories of Bustopher Jones, the cat about town, Gus, the theatre cat, Skimbleshanks, the railway cat, Macavity, the mystery cat, Mr. Mistoffelees, the conjuring cat, Rum Tum Tugger, Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer, and all the others as they told us their stories, with their dancing, their antics and their gymnastics.Of course, none of this happens without guidance and the very talented and inspiring young production team which provides that, all have a background in musical theatre or choreography. My friends Callum and Hannah the producers and directors of Wing-It Theatre are professional actors, Andy the choreographer is a member of Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures Dance Company, and Charlie has just finished a run in the West End. They can be justly proud this week that the nearly sixty strong cast pulled the proverbial cat out of the bag and gave us an experience that we will not forget!Photo on 19 Aug 2017, 15_06_40

 

Miss Saigon in Leicester

IMG_8908-955x505

(Leicester’s very modern theatre, The Curve, is currently playing host to Miss Saigon)

The very first time that I saw Miss Saigon, the musical by Boubil and Schönberg, (who are also the writers of Les Misérables), I was absolutely bowled over. It was back in 1989, and we went to London to see it just a week or two after it opened. My memories of that day were of the helicopter – everyone who has seen it cannot fail to remember the helicopter – but perhaps more importantly the wonderful music and very emotive story were imprinted on my mind. I remember also a group of Americans who were in the theatre for the first act, but did not reappear for the second act. Apparently, the memories of the Vietnam War, in which this musical is set, were too raw, understandably they were not yet able to face a re-enactment of such horrifying events from their recent past. America found it difficult to put the war behind it, it worried for its veterans, the peace movement and the draft dodgers were subjects still on their minds fourteen years after the war ended. Twenty eight years on from its opening in London, and the events portrayed on the stage still send a shudder down the spine, and bring more than tear to the eye, but it is a story that needs to be told.

Since that first time that I saw the show until last Saturday when I saw it again, I think I have seen the show about eight times, and I have never failed to be moved. It tells the story of the complicated relationship between an American Marine, Chris, and a Vietnamese girl, Kim, who fall in love in the last days before the fall of Saigon to the Communists. Chris, along with all Americans, has to leave, but is unable to take Kim with him. Some years later through a charity set up to look after Vietnamese orphans, Chris and his new wife discover that Chris is the father of Kim’s child. The ending is tragic, and if you know the story of Madame Butterfly, then I need not explain the ending, indeed I don’t want to spoil it if you have never seen the show.

Saturday evening’s performance was the opening night of the U.K. tour in Leicester, and the show has lost none of its power, its emotion or its raunchiness. The central character of The Engineer was brilliantly portrayed by Red Conception, and Ashley Gilmour and Sooha Kim, were superb as the lovers Chris and Kim. The staging is very cleverly done, it is slick, fast moving, colourful and very realistic. That helicopter that everyone talks about, you actually feel it passing above you through the auditorium, and then you see it landing on stage as the last of the Americans and the Ambassador board it, leaving behind those who were hopeful of escape to freedom, escape from the Viet Cong.

There are some lovely ballads in the musical score, as well as some rousing military music, but my favourite song has to the song about the orphaned Vietnamese children, Bui Doi, which translates as The Dust of Life, those ever present red haired, blond and freckled children of Vietnamese mothers, usually prostitutes, and American fathers. These children are a source of shame and guilt for Americans, but a central theme of Miss Saigon.

After its run in Leicester, the shows moves around the U.K. and Ireland, playing in Birmingham,  Dublin, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Southampton, Manchester, Bristol and Plymouth. It really is unmissable.

Photo on 5 Jul 2017, 16_21_58

Kilworth House Hotel and Open Air Theatre

IMG_0038

I have just celebrated a rather special birthday, and one of my treats was a overnight theatre package at the Kilworth House Hotel and Open Air Theatre near Lutterworth in Leicestershire. The number which appeared on many of my birthday cards is not important, let’s just say that under British law, I have reached that age where you have to renew your driving licence! It was a lovely experience and I feel sure that many of my readers would love to hear what it was like.

From the moment we arrived to the moment we left, everything was superb. The package included an overnight stay in this glorious Grade ll listed Italianate country house, which was built as a family home towards the end of the nineteenth century for John Entwistle, the High Sheriff of Leicestershire. The present owners bought it and converted it into the beautiful hotel it is today in 1999. The original Orangery has been converted into a restaurant, where we had dinner last night, and breakfast this morning. But the main reason for going was to visit the wonderful Open Air Theatre which has been built in the grounds, and which for the last ten years has hosted top class musicals, with West End actors and musicians. The show currently playing is Kiss Me Kate, a musical I first saw back in 1991 in Birmingham, and then in the West End in 2002.

Let me tell you about the hotel and restaurant first. Everything had been carefully thought about, nothing was forgotten. The garden room which we were allocated was spacious, beautifully furnished and extremely comfortable; and the restaurant in the huge, light and airy south facing Orangery which overlooked the rolling countryside of South Leicestershire was well staffed and very efficiently run. It had to be, dinner for those going to the theatre was served from five o’clock, and the eighty odd people in the restaurant were all served unhurriedly with plenty of time to spare before being transported through the grounds to the “theatre in the woods”.

IMG_0037

For dinner, I chose Butternut Squash Soup as my starter, and my friend had Mackerel pâté, rye bread, pickled fennel and horseradish cream. Our main courses were Pork schnitzel, with parsley potatoes, cranberry sauce and lemon for my friend, while I had Escalope of salmon, crushed potatoes, green beans and sauce vierge. Both were accompanied with seasonal vegetables. We both decided on the same dessert which was a Lemon Delice, toasted meringue and raspberries. A good sized glass of Spanish Tempranillo, and a coffee to finish, and we were all set for what turned out to be quite a chilly night in the theatre!

Remember that this is June! Last week, the United Kingdom was sweltering in a heatwave with temperatures in the low 30s. Last night, most of the audience had thick coats, wooly hats, some even had gloves, and the staff were handing out blankets! It was quite ironic when the second half of the show, as it does, opened with the number Too Darn Hot! that the laughter that greeted that song showed quite clearly that the audience did not agree! At least it wasn’t raining!

IMG_1672

Kiss Me Kate is a musical by Cole Porter, based on Shakespeare’s play The Taming of the Shrew. It is highly amusing and contains many well known songs, Another Op’nin’, Another Show, Wunderbar, So in Love, I Hate Men, Too Darn Hot, Always True to You in my Fashion, and the hilarious number sung by the two gangsters, Brush Up Your Shakespeare. The leading actors, Caroline Sheen who played Katherine, and Matthew McKenna who played Petruchio, have both starred in West End musicals, and were superb in carrying the show with such pace. The whole company was truly magnificent, the energy, enthusiasm and talent worthy of any London production. This is the first of the two major productions at Kilworth this summer. Kiss Me Kate closes on 16th July after a six week run, and then the Irving Berlin dance musical Top Hat opens in August for a four week run.

Photo on 29 Jun 2017, 19_02_21

A theatre in the woods in rural Leicestershire is not where you expect to see top class musicals, but if you get the chance to see one of the productions, take it, you will not be disappointed. Kilworth presents two musicals and other one night shows throughout the summer. If you are too late to book for this year, bear it in mind for next.

The hotel, the restaurant, and the theatre are all little gems here in the Midlands. For me it was a lovely birthday treat, and I shall look forward with eager anticipation to my next visit.

 

Kinky Boots

IMG_0036

A Northampton shoe factory is the unlikely setting for the musical Kinky Boots currently playing at the Adelphi Theatre in London’s West End. It is an award winning show with music and lyrics by Cyndi Lauper, and book by Harvey Fierstein. It is loosely based on real life events in a shoe factory in Northampton, and takes us on a very moving journey of self discovery.

Charlie Price is finding it difficult to live up to his father’s expectations and carry on the family shoe business of Price & Son. The future of the factory is in the balance, staff are threatened with being laid off, when help arrives in the unlikely person of Lola, a fabulous drag artist who is in need of some sturdy high heeled boots. Like Charlie, Lola, whose real name is Simon, doesn’t live up to his/her father’s expectations either, but through their cooperation and friendship, which goes through difficult times, the future of the factory is assured, and from making sturdy shoes for men, it begins to make thigh length high heeled boots with a steel support in the heel suitable for people like Lola.

Yes, it’s an unlikely setting, and an unlikely story, but the message of the show is not so unlikely. The story celebrates equality, acceptance and the right to express oneself as one wants, and as the story develops we see what happens when people unlock their potential and accept themselves as they are. As the storyline tells us “Be who you want, do what you want, and treat others with the same respect that you would want to be treated.”

The show has some wonderful songs, with both humour and pathos, and my favourite has to be Not my father’s son, delivered beautifully by Lola and Charlie as they compare their lives up to this point. David Hunter as Charlie Price and Matt Henry as Lola give powerful performances, and are ably assisted by a very talented cast, and the costumes including the boots, are amazing! At the end of the show, of the two leading characters, it is Lola who comes through as the stronger character, and saves the day and the business.

We saw the show at the end of May. It had been on our list of shows to see, for some time, partly because we know the choreographer who comes from Coventry. We wished we hadn’t put it off for so long, it was a real fun show, but one that was able to put across a very serious and important message. The cast well deserved their standing ovation at the end of the final number. A new cast has recently been announced and the show will run for some time to come, so there is plenty of time to see it, it’s worth it, if for no other reason, just to see the boots, not only are they amazing, but they’re Kinky Boots!