Kinky Boots – Paradise in Augustine

Directed by Dominic Lewis

Musical Direction by Finlay Turnbull

Rating: 3 out of 5.

And like shazam! A fun, feisty feast for the eyes, Bare Production returns to the Fringe for a musical rendition of the well-known story of acceptance, drag and some supremely sexy red boots with Kinky Boots, the 2012 musical based on the original film – set to the time-tested music of Cyndi Lauper and Harvey Fierstein’s book.

Facing the closure of his shoe factory, and the loss of his late father’s legacy, a relatable Charlie, portrayed by Mark Wilson, must decide between risking it all on the talent of a fabulous drag queen or selling up and following girlfriend Nicola, played by Lea Niven-Smith, to London.

The emotional guideline of the production is the focus on the developing friendship between the reluctant shoemaker Charlie and drag queen Lola, portrayed by Frazer Beckles, which builds naturally throughout the performance. After Lola opens Charlie’s eyes to the world of drag, a potential niche market for his shoe production, the pair bond over their common feeling of failing to meet their father’s expectations. While some emotional beats are rushed, the believability of their connection deepens the impact of their conflict.

Toxic masculinity is one of the more significant issues explored in the production, encapsulated by Russell Coid’s performance as Don, and eventually revealed to be subconsciously present in Wilson’s Charlie. While this issue and the impact it has on Beckles’s Lola is shown and resolution achieved through the power of acceptance and friendship, the pacing of the more serious scenes is rushed to maintain a flow of narrative.

A true delight was the performance given by Rachael Anderson as Lauren, the underdog for Charlie’s affections, with excellent comedic timing and physicality bringing the character to life. Her song “The History of Wrong Guys”, laments her desire for an unavailable man, showcasing her vocal talent and engaging characterisation.

Accompanied by a live band, the choreography of Felicity Halfpenny puts the dancing talent of the main cast and ensemble to excellent use in group numbers “Land of Lola”, “Sex Is in the Heel” and “Everybody Say Yeah” with spirited, non-stop routines that frequently incorporate drag performance staples. It would be remiss to go without mentioning the performance of the Drag Angels Bernardo Jr. Caimoy, Andrew Gardiner, Neil Robertson, Liam Bradbury, Kenneth Young and Rory McKeon, who were adorned in eye-catching fashions and kept the energy level of the production high.

With every evening soled (get it?) out, the Edinburgh audience is here for a feel-good musical with a splash of drag and catchy songs, and where the pacing has to confine itself to the Fringe runtime, Kinky Boots delivers what it always excelled at – quality vocals, and communal storytelling.

Shazam!’

Kinky Boots runs at Paradise in Augustine until August 13th.

And though sold-out, tickets are still released on the day, So be sure to contact the venue directly. Further information can be found here.

Written by Mhairi Sime

Photo Credit – Steve Reid

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