The smash-hit musical, Kinky Boots, has arrived in Norwich for its limited two week run at the Theatre Royal, and boy was it fabulous.

Set in fictional Northampton factory ‘Price and Son’, the show centres around Charlie Price who inherits his father’s failing shoe factory. After seeing the flamboyant Lola’s drag act, Charlie finds the only way to save the factory is to start manufacturing “Kinky Boots” for drag queens – much to the chagrin of some of his initially closed-minded workers.

‘Kinky Boots’ was a definite crowd-pleaser; audience members cheering along, laughing throughout and a standing ovation to close the show. Though I found it feel-good and fun with some particular highlights, it left something to be desired.

I wish the entire show had the joyous energy and busy ensemble choreography of the songs that closed Act 1 and Act 2. Both ‘Everybody Say Yeah’ and ‘Raise You Up/Just Be’ were fun-filled larger than life numbers. The first boasted impressive conveyer belt choreography and sassy drag performers. The final number offered a feel-good message paired with the whole cast sporting the iconic titular Kinky Boots. It’s a show you leave on a high thanks to both songs and the energy of the performers; It’s just a shame that this level of energy wasn’t there throughout.

The Northampton accents were much more stomachable than the infamously bad attempts on the Broadway soundtrack, but they weren’t consistent enough to be entirely convincing. A mixture of the accents and the volume of the band made lines and lyrics hard to hear at times which pulled focus from the show. As it was only the second night, this could be put down to getting used to a new theatre – but it was disappointing to miss parts of some of my favourite songs from Cyndi Lauper’s brilliant score.

A standout performer was Joel Harper-Jackson as Charlie. His voice lends itself perfectly to the Act 2 pop-rock ballad Soul of a Man but was lost in some of the bigger numbers. Charlie’s story arc and commitment to saving the factory no matter what means the audience is on his side from the get-go, routing for him throughout.

Sharing the spotlight was Kayi Ushe who played drag queen Lola, exuding sass and flair. I was disappointed to find his characterisation too exaggerated (even for a drag queen) which made it harder to find empathy for the character in tender moments further on in the play.

It wasn’t just Lola who felt over the top as love interest Lauren (Paula Lane) pushed too hard for laughs in her solo song ‘The History of Wrong Guys’, but though not to my personal taste, her performance was met with rapturous applause from the audience.

The visuals were the clear standout of the show as the combination of lighting, set and costume made for an impressive spectacle. The slightly more mundane factory set and costumes clashed with the camp, sequined and multicolour apparel of the drag queens, emphasising just how out of place they initially were. My favourite performers were Lola’s Angels (essentially her posse of drag queen back up dancers) who sashayed onto the stage in the big production numbers with impressive choreography which was as captivating as the ridiculously tall heels they wore in every scene. For me, they stole the show, and I often found myself paying them even more attention than the lead roles.

If you’re searching for a feel-good musical to get you in a good mood form the start, Kinky Boots is the show for you. Fans of Ru Paul’s Drag Race will surely love the whole ensemble songs. Personally, I felt that in a strive for making comedy the show missed the mark in hitting some of its more emotional and heartfelt moments and I would have liked the characters to feel a little more grounded and realistic. Though… two days on, I’m still humming the tunes and I can’t get it out of my head!

What do you think?