Stepping Out and Kinky Boots in the West End | London

“Harris’ play is broadly enjoyable and its central message – about being a friend and the importance of having friends. What’s On Stage

A visit to the UK wouldn’t be complete without a trip to the West End to see one of the many plays and musicals currently showing in theatreland. I really miss going to the theatre in London, this visit I was lucky enough to see not one but two shows, the newly revised play Stepping Out and the fabulous Kinky Boots The Musical.

Envisage a weekly amateur dance class in a drafty church hall and that pretty much sums up the plot of Stepping Out which opened at the beginning of this month at the Vaudeville Theatre on the Strand. A host of British TV stars play the participants in the tap class in this observational comedy which is more about their characters mundane lives and woes, the cleanliness of the venue and surly pianist Mrs Fraser, than the actual tap dancing itself. This is a remake of the original 1984 (Evening Standard Comedy of the Year Award winner) play written by Richard Harris, that was also made into a movie, with this run’s cast headed up by Britain’s Got Talent judge Amanda Holden. Not the most riveting or funniest play I have ever seen but there were some laugh out loud moments, busybody Holden complete with 80’s bouffant shone playing the very posh, snobby Vera, the latest colourful lycra clad recruit to join the uncoordinated class.

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Alongside Vera there’s six other women and one token man attempting to tap their sorrows and loneliness away. There’s the strait-laced Andy, showy and gobby Maxine, vivacious Sylvia, anxious Dorothy, super keen Lynne, happy-go-lucky Rose and awkward Geoffrey. Anna-Jane Casey stepped into the role of Mavis, the very tolerant dance teacher (played by Liza Minnelli in the movie), after first choice Tamzin Outhwaite had to pull out due to injury.

The climax of the show is a charity gala where the out-of-time tappers come together in a glitzy and glamorous performance complete with sparkly sequined costumes, canes and top hats, a final much needed bit of razzle dazzle. It’s a dated concept that’s been reworked for 2017, the story is slow-moving and limps along but there’s still a feelgood buzz around the auditorium. If you like upbeat musicals or highbrow storylines this isn’t the show for you, if you fancy watching a light hearted British farce then book yourself some tickets, if may even encourage you to dust off your dancing shoes.

Stepping Out runs at the Vaudeville Theatre until 17th June – visit the box office here

Later that week it was musical time, Kinky Boots is not a new production but one that had eluded me until now, a fun show that was the perfect feel good show to enjoy with a friend and the teenager. Written by 80’s quirky pop sensation Cyndi Lauper in conjunction with playwright Harvey Fierstein, Kinky Boots The Musical is based on the 2005 independent British movie of the same name.

Playing at the Adelphi Theatre also on the Strand, the show is bizarrely based on a true story of a money strapped Northampton shoe factory that’s business is saved by producing shoes for drag queens, The show has won Lauper Tony and Grammy awards for the music and lyrics and the 2016 Olivier Award for Best New Musical. The story follows Charlie Price who inherits the factory following his father’s death forcing him to return from London to sort out the struggling business and Lola, a black brazen drag queen who sings and dances his/her way throughout the show. Former Voice UK contestant Matt Henry (who won an Olivier Award for Best Actor in a Musical and Whatsonstage Award for Best Actor in a Musical) is amazing as Lola, his singing and dancing was incredible, he and his fellow queens high kicked their way through number after number on heels that most woman would struggle to even walk on.  

Price, played by the talented David Hunter, was forced to overcome prejudices within his workforce who fought against changing production from bog standard traditional shoes to over-to-top fancy boots for transvestites. A chance encounter with Lola saw Price save the factory and the show culminated in a Milan catwalk show where the Kinky Boots were debuted to the world.

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Henry’s part was filled with one liners, energetic song and dance numbers with his band of incredibly toned drag queen ensemble, there was also a ballad that was spine-tinglingly awesome that tackled the deep issues of a father and a homosexual son’s relationship. Donnelly also had some comic moments and a great singing voice, a random boxing scene between a disgruntled homophobic factory employee and Lola showcased his acting talents in the ring. Despite the cheeky undertones of the plot this is a one-of-a-kind feelgood show for the whole family, the show’s overall message is clear encouraging people to accept others regardless of gender and sexuality, whether they are “men, women and those who have yet to make up their minds”.

Kinky Boots The Musical runs at the Adelphi Theatre until November 2017 – visit the box office here

All views are my own based on my experience. Unless otherwise stated all photos © Jo Brett 2017. All rights reserved. Featured image and additional photos used with courtesy of the respective theatres and shows.