Sunday, 3 April 2016

CD Review: Kinky Boots (Original West End Cast Recording)

"I am freedom, I'm constriction
A potpourri of contradiction"

With rather serendipitous timing, the West End cast recording for Cyndi Lauper's score for Kinky Boots is released just in time for the show's Best New Musical victory at this year's Olivier awards. And it is particularly good news for fans of the show as up until now, we've had to make do with the Broadway cast recording and their, challenging shall we say, approach to the requisite British accents. Recorded live at the Adelphi with the original West End cast (including Best Actor in a Musical winner Matt Henry and nominees Killian Donnelly and Amy Lennox), it's a welcome addition to playlists and CD collections everywhere.

The live recording is be a double-edged sword - there can be more raw energy than one might expect from a recording booth and that comes in the form of an audible audience. I quite like to hear their laughter, especially when it is from something familiar as in the comic genius of Lennox's performance of 'The History of Wrong Guys' here, but the applause at the end of each track is jarring when listening to the album as a whole. And I'm not 100% certain but I'm pretty sure there's someone coughing a couple of times which is a shame (though perfectly replicates sitting through pretty much any show!).

Such niggles aside, it is a recording of an excellent cast doing some great work. Lauper's first foray into musical theatre is highly effective and Henry and Donnelly stand out throughout as Lola and Charlie, the mismatched pair who have to team up to save the latter's family factory and their place in the precarious world of Northampton shoemaking. As you might expect from such a staunch LGBT ally, Lauper's songs for drag queen Lola will leave you wanting you to lip-synch for your life but she's just as strong in the quieter moments such as the utterly heartfelt 'Not My Father's Son' on which the two men blend beautifully.

One thing I did feel whilst listening was that the relative weakness of the show's second act is exposed here. The first half is packed with cracking tunes - 'Sex is in the Heel' is another corker and 'Everybody Says Yeah' brings the curtain down in great style - but as Harvey Fierstein's book winds to its hurried conclusion, only 'What A Woman Wants' really sparkles as superlative musical theatre. 'Soul of a Man' and 'Hold Me In Your Heart' are good songs and well performed, they just don't feel as well-integrated to me. But don't let that stop you from picking this up from digital music outlets so you can get Kinky whenever you want.

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