Review: Kinky Boots at Rockdale Town Hall

By Kipp Lee


Rockdale Musical Society presents Kinky Boots as part of their 80th anniversary season. Written by Harvey Fierstein, with music and lyrics by Cyndi Lauper, Kinky Boots is inspired by true events and based on the subsequent 2005 movie. It follows the story of Charlie Price who after inheriting a nearly out-of-business shoe factory from his father, forms an unlikely partnership with a drag queen named Lola, to produce a line of high-heeled boots and save the factory. In the process, Charlie and Lola discover that they are not so different after all.


While the message of the musical is acceptance, the script could use a rewrite to remove some of the more outdated language that risks alienating and offending some audience members, while unintentionally reinforcing some dangerously problematic views in the majority white baby boomer audience. For a musical about Drag Queens, the man-in-a-dress gags were overly milked and the character of Don hitting on Lola when he thinks she’s a woman before turning aggressive hits a little close to home given that it was only earlier this year that the South Australian government finally repealed the  “gay panic defence” (being the last Australian state to do so).


The cast of RMS’s Kinky Boots is large and full of talent. Charlie (Marcus James Hurley) and Lola (William Manukia) are both strong performers with stronger voices and played their roles with such heart. Hurley won the audience over quickly with his angelic tenor and Manukia is unmatched in his control of the stage, especially in Sex is in the Heel. Kate Xouris totally embodied Lauren, giving a versatile and charming comedic performance.


The ensemble was extremely competent both vocally and physically, thanks in no small part to the army of pit singers and strong featured dancers. Notably, Joseph Nalty stunned the crowd as an elegant, leggy Angel and Julie Ryan’s strong, sweet voice, showed off in What a Woman Wants. The choreography was challenging and spectacular, requiring a lot of the cast to do splits, flips and jumps in heels! The cast were all confident in wearing the titular boots, and executed the energetic moves with grace.


The technical elements of Kinky boots were expansive and high quality. RMS’s set is impressive, with moving and motorised elements, flying set pieces and more glitter and flashing lights that you can shake a stick at. There was clearly no expense spared to create a set to rival the profession production – though the motors were occasionally loud and distracting in the quieter transitions. The cast handled the manual movement of the set pieces confidently and the show ran without issue. Lachlan Roberts’ lighting design was impressive and fun, matching the vibrancy and energetic nature of the show well. However, the use of moving lights as follow spots didn’t run as smoothly as it could have and often the complex gobo designs were overwhelming and detracted from the action on the stage. The vocals and orchestra were often unbalanced and the other sound design elements felt clunky and unnatural.


Many of the costumes left something to be desired. The Angels (Lola’s back up troupe of Drag Queens) were often in ill-fitting and frumpy outfits, and even Lola donned a dress or two that a drag queen of her calibre wouldn’t have been caught dead in. The era it was set in also was confused by the costumes, some of which looked straight from the 80s and others wouldn’t have been a-miss on 2019 street fashion blogs.


On the whole, Kinky Boots was a fun show with some outstanding talent and cohesive performances. RMS and the cast should be proud of the hard work they’ve put into it and the high-quality production they created. Catch Kinky Boots at Rockdale Town Hall on the 13th and 14th of September.


Image Credit: Grant Leslie


All opinions and thoughts expressed within reviews on Theatre Travels are those of the writer and not of the company at large.


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