Heart and soles go into new ‘Kinky Boots’

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Rania Osbourne as Lola in “KInky Boots”… no mishaps so far. Photo: Janelle McMenamin

With a star line-up and six over-the-top dancing drag queens, it’s hard to see how a new production of the Cyndi Lauper musical “Kinky Boots” could go wrong, says arts editor HELEN MUSA.

WITH a star line-up of emerging theatrical talent and six over-the-top dancing drag queens, it’s hard to see how Free-Rain Theatre could go wrong with its production of the Cyndi Lauper musical, “Kinky Boots,” coming to The Q.

I say “the Cyndi Lauper musical” because it’s her songs that have given the stage show its edge, outdoing the 2005 film of the same name in popularity and enjoying hit seasons around the world as well as a touring professional production in Australia that starred Canberra-raised actor Toby Francis.

But, as director Derek Walker is quick to point out to “CityNews” when we catch up with him at The Q, it’s not just about showbiz, this show is based in real life.

Walker, who staged “Legally Blonde” for Free-Rain in 2014, is now based in London where he works mainly in opera, has made the pilgrimage to Northampton where WJ Brooks Shoe Company’s venture into fetish footwear took place and he’s met the real people.

The musical sees young Charlie Price emotionally stranded when his father dies and leaves him in charge of his failing shoe factory in Northampton. He’s saved when he meets the seemingly confident drag queen, Lola, who performs with her back-up troupe of over-the-top drag dancers, the Angels.

But Lola, really Simon, who shows him the way to success, has his/her own story, too. Together, they turn the business around by producing erotic shoe wear – “kinky boots” – and Charlie gets his girl.

Sounds totally improbable? Well, it isn’t. And it’s that human element, along with the lap of songs that have made “Kinky Boots” a hit.

Free-Rain and the show’s assistant director and choreographer, Michelle Heine, have been busy accessing the actual kinky boots that, as the musical shows, need to be perfectly designed, from places such as House of Priscilla in Darlinghurst and a supplier in Bangkok with a big lady-boy clientele.

She and musical director Nicholas Griffin have been rehearsing the local cast and Angels – David Santolin, Jordan Kelly, Lachy Agett, Alex Thorpe, Ashley Jeffries and Garrett Kelly – for months, but Walker has been on the show for about six weeks.

“Everyone’s at different stages in the rehearsal process,” Walker says, introducing us to the leading out-of-town actors Rania Osbourne, playing Lola; Brittanie Shipway as Charlie’s feisty love interest Lauren, and Martin Everett as Charlie.

This will be no copycat production of the professional shows, says Walker who is enjoying working again in musical theatre – “more liberating” than opera.

Everett, who confesses that a part of him would like to play Lola, sees Charlie as not a wimp but a boy who’s grown up with “too big a pair of shoes to fill”.

First heading for London with his ambitious girlfriend Nicola, he is forced  to return to Northampton, do the right thing and save the jobs of people.

“There’s a little bit of a ‘Billy Elliot’ element in this,” Walker says. “Two young men trying to live up to their fathers’ expectations.”

For while Lola looks and sounds brassy, she/he, too, has to be set free from a demanding father.

Shipway is having fun playing Lauren, a hard-working employee on the assembly-line who gives Charlie what she calls “the nudge – she’s always ready to tell him what to do,” she says. “Lauren brings a burst of energy and positivity.”

It’ll be a good-looking show. Osbourne says: “It’s not an ugly stereotype of drag queens – and there’s a lot of red in it. We’re definitely drag queens, but we’re classy and we’re beautiful.”

“And tasteful,” Walker adds.

There are “hundreds of costumes”, plenty of sequins and, for Lauren, pom-poms. But Charlie, Everett laments, mostly gets to wear blue shirts.

As for Lola and the Angels, they’re getting very comfortable in high heels and so far there have been no mishaps.

“Kinky Boots”, The Q, Queanbeyan, July 9-28. Book at theq.net.au or 6285 6290.

Kinky cocktails

Free-Rain Theatre is holding a “Kinky Cocktail Party” with music, cast members on hand and silent and live auctions of theatrical memorabilia. It’s a fundraiser for the charity Dainere’s Rainbow Brain Tumour Research Fund. At The Q, 6pm, Friday, July 5. RSVP to freeraintheatre@gmail.com

 

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Helen Musa
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