Earlier this week I went on a short trip to London and while I was there I saw two amazing West End musicals, namely Kinky Boots and Disney’s Aladdin. Both are relatively new productions and although very different in style and story are united in their ability to transport you into their worlds and leave you glowing with happiness, well after you have left the theatre. Costume wise they were also both designed by the same man, Tony nominated designer Greg Barnes, although they are different settings it is clear there is a common style between the two. They both have a bold use of colour and utilise glamourous sparkly fabrics creating sumptuous visual displays.
First I saw Kinky Boots, this feel good heart -warming musical, tells the story of a Northampton shoe factory, which on the brink of shutting down decides to start catering for a ‘niche market’ of thigh night boots for drag queens in a range of electric colours. After factory owner Charlie Price has a chance meeting with a Drag Queen called Lola while in London.
The show is full of catchy songs (written by none other than eighties pop star Cyndi Lauper) that will make you want to sing along. The songs are accompanied by energetic choreography performed by the whole cast. Particular highlights include Lola’s first visit to the factory; which on being presented with Charlie’s sensible but dull interpretation of drag footwear, breaks into song exclaiming ‘burgundy is the colour of cardigans and hot water bottles red is the colour of sex!’ Lola asserts her vison of what the Kinky Boots of the show’s title will look in the number ‘Sex is in the Heel’ which sees Lola’s entourage of queens known as ‘the Angels’ strut, split and backflip their way around the factory. It really is a fabulous scene!The set of the factory itself is used to great effect in ‘everybody say yeah’, the unveiling of the Kinky Boots prototype, the cast dance on the production line conveyer belts in a crowd pleasing number that will make you want to get up and dance too.
|Dancing in the Factory|
Apart from the visual spectacle to enjoy Kinky boots is also incredibly funny, packed with wit from start to finish; from Lola’s explanation of the difference between drag and transvestism: ‘a tranny looks like Winston Churchill in his mum’s knickers’ to Laurens song ‘the History of Wrong Guys’ which many a women could relate to. The show promotes a positive message of ‘accepting someone for who they are’ but at the same time doesn’t take itself too seriously, it’s all about the spectacle and fun.
Where costume is concerned, the highlight is the finale where Lola saves the day accompanied by her Angels dressed in six fantastically glamourous costumes on various themes. From a Rule Britannia girl to a Vivienne Westwood inspired tartan number, yes the Austrian ballet wore something similar in the Vienna New Year’s Day concert a couple of years ago. The finale is a celebration of glitz and glamour and of course the all-important Kinky Boots; all the cast, even the women join on stage dressed in a pair. More risqué costumes are sported by the angels in the Simon (Lola) vs Dom boxing scene. While in ‘Hold me in your Heart’ Lola is dressed in a Shirley Bassey style flowing gown. The look is so feminine for a second you almost forget she is a drag queen.
|The Finale and the Boots|
Kinky Boots is probably one of the best musicals I have seen, it is so much fun with uplifting songs, fab choreography and a positive story I would definitely go see it again I left the theatre wanting to strut in a pair of kinky boots myself!
Transferred from Broadway Disneys Aladdin brings tio life the much loved animated film for stage.
The show is one of visual splendour with no expense spared; mesmerizing and spellbinding the world of Acrabah is rendered in sumptuous jewel colours. The sets are lavish and extravagant. None more so than in the biggest number of the show ‘friend like me’ which sees the cave of wonders transform from gold encrusted cavern to dazzling skyscrapers. Complete with a tap sequence that is reminiscent of the classic razzamatazz musicals of old. This really is the highlight of the show as the ensemble twist and turn in an array of costumes and dance styles. Similar extended sequences are found in Prince Ali and Arabian Nights the opening number.
|Friend Like Me|
Trevor Dion Nicholas (imported from the Broadway production) is fantastic as the Genie providing
just the right amount of wit
and camp splendour. One of the highlights was his 2 minute medley of Disney songs
from other shows as part of friend like me, fabulously silly but very enjoyable.
|Trevor Dion Nicholas as the Genie|
There are some changes and additions from the film, Jasmines father the Sultan is portrayed as less of a buffoon more of a stately, believer in honesty figure, for me this loses the whole feeling of him being taken for a fool and being a comical character. Perhaps this was done to make room for other comic elements, per civically Aladdin’s friends Omar, Kassim and Babkak who provide much of the humour. Baddies Jafar and Iago create humourful baddies complete with ‘scary crackling laughs’.
The classic number ‘A Whole New World’ is a lovely poignant moment Aladdin ad Jasmine are highlighted by spotlights and are set against a backdrop of starry night sky. This simplistic but dazzling staging works well however personally I would have liked to have seen projections (as they are used in other parts of the show) to create the effect of them ‘flying around the world’ like it is portrayed in the film.Its clear Aladdin is a sumptuous show; almost a pantomime without the dame as Michael Billington from the guardian described it. In terms of authenticity to Asian culture it is a bad example of western appropriation on many levels but as a piece of warm hearted escapism it succeeds in bucket loads. A feast for the senses, it’s a show that will captivate young audiences and does justice to the original animated film which captivated my generation and older.
|A Whole New World|
|Aladdin a fabulous wonderful spectacle full of fun!|