What's Hot in London: Sept. 18: Kinky Boots Struts to the Stage and Nicole Kidman Returns to London

News   What's Hot in London: Sept. 18: Kinky Boots Struts to the Stage and Nicole Kidman Returns to London
 
No fewer than three major London critics came up with the same pun while describing the U.K homecoming of Broadway version of the British film Kinky Boots, with The Guardian's Michael Billington, The Independent's Paul Taylor and The Evening Standard's Henry Hitchings all delighting themselves by simultaneously saying, "There's no business like shoe business."

But if that phrase produced an interesting consensus, not everyone agreed about the merits of the show itself. The Times, Guardian, Mail and The Stage (myself!) all gave it four star reviews (out of five), and for me, at least, it proved to be a serious improvement on the Broadway original.

As I wrote, "One of the central messages of Kinky Boots, the new big budget Broadway stage musical version of the low-budget 2005 British film, is that "You change the world when you change your mind." And true to that spirit, I'm happy to say I've changed my mind about the show since I saw its original Broadway production two years ago... brought home now to England, it feels like a very authentic successor to Made in Dagenham, another musical transposed from a film about an industrial setting, which played at the Adelphi immediately before it."

Even the usually conservative Daily Mail raved, with Quentin Letts dubbing it "a cheerily over-the-top musical about, er, the footwear industry in Northampton. Throw in a chorus line — I almost said second row — of statuesque drag queens, some of whom do stage acrobatics in three-inch high heels. I swear the Adelphi’s foundations shuddered. The way these 'ladies' cavort and roll their eyes and waggle their sixpack-tummied booty, this show is all about tongues — and in a way that would make a shires cobbler thwack his thumb in astonishment."

In the Independent, Paul Taylor noted how the show righted a previous Off-Broadway wrong that also came to London: "Footwear-fetishists must have have felt a tad short-changed by Here Lies Love, the Imelda Marcos disco-musical staged at the National last year. It was a great piece but it mysteriously left out any mention of the epic collection of shoes amassed by the Steel Butterfly of the Philippines. Kinky Boots compensates for that oversight, big-time." But a note of serious dissent was sounded by the Daily Telegraph's Dominic Cavendish, who, in a 2-star review wrote, "It might seem ungracious to give it a kicking. But a kicking I feel obliged to give it…. It may at times look as colourful as a pride carnival parade, but you can hear the creak of the production-line." He praises Matt Henry, who was a finalist on the UK's "The Voice," who — stepping into Billy Porter's boots as Lola, and says, "When he’s surrounded by his gender-bending, go-go dancers, camping and vamping it up like there’s no tomorrow, it’s all pleasure, no pain. But around them, it’s way too pedestrian. He’s a sure-footed sensation, the clod-hopping show isn’t."

Harvey Feinstein in London and (in Spirit) in Leciester
The co-creator of Kinky Boots Harvey Fierstein has been in town this week, and the very next night he was in attendance (with Cyndi Lauper) for the London opening of his 2014 Broadway play Casa Valentina, that received its UK premiere at the fringe Southwark Playhouse. I was there, too, and as I wrote (again for The Stage), "Casa Valentina, first premiered on Broadway last year, is the one without songs, but it's also about singing to one of life’s different tunes as a group of seven disparate, avowedly heterosexual men meet at a private weekend retreat in upstate New York in 1962 to temporarily live a different fantasy life as women…. Fierstein’s group portrait of them — and the single biological woman who runs the resort with her cross-dressing husband — is alternately witty and gritty, warm-hearted and tough."

And if that wasn't enough, a year-long new touring production of Hairspray (that Fierstein did not write, but starred in as Broadway's original Edna Turnblad) also kicked off this week at Curve, an important producing theatre in Leicester. Fierstein is everywhere, in his own words or just in spirit, in the UK theatre at the moment.

Nicole Kidman in <i>Photograph 51</i>
Nicole Kidman in Photograph 51 Photo by Johan Persson



Nicole Kidman's Return to the London Stage "Close to Perfection"
Nicole Kidman made her London stage debut 17 years ago in The Blue Room which was (in)famously described as "pure theatrical viagra" by one male critic (the now retired Charles Spencer in the Daily Telegraph), for a scene in which she briefly appeared naked. Now she's stripping off not so much clothing as emotional layers as she plays real-life 1950s scientist Rosalind Franklin in Anna Ziegler's Photograph 51, previously seen Off-Broadway in 2010 and now being presented in a revised version under the direction of Michael Grandage at the West End's Noel Coward Theatre.



In a review for the New York Times, Ben Brantley stated, "Ms. Kidman has seldom been better cast than as this intimidating figure. Among movie stars of her generation, she stands out for the relentless determination she projects; she seduces audiences not by charm but by concentration. And her best screen performances (as the homicidal television reporter in 'To Die For,' the protective mother in 'The Others,' even Virginia Woolf in 'The Hours,' for which she won an Oscar) have emanated a sense of a laser-focused ambition. Photograph 51 allows her to capitalize on this persona to enlightening and unexpectedly poignant effect…. Ms. Kidman, who turns Franklin's guardedness into as much a revelation as a concealment of character, is pretty close to perfection."

There was warm praise from the London critics, too: in The Guardian, Michael Billington admiringly wrote how she "conveys the ecstasy of scientific discovery: her features acquire a luminous intensity as she stares at the photograph that reveals the helix pattern. It is a fine performance in which Kidman reminds us that the scientific life can be informed by private passion." In the Daily Telegraph, Dominic Cavendish said, "Kidman displays once again the power to hold us in thrall. Although her kit is 50s demure, the caboodle of her nuanced performance is the stuff of intoxication ... By turns icily impatient and glowering, but thawing too for telling moments, Kidman brilliantly suggests an intelligent woman compacted of porcelain and steel."

Liza Minnelli
Liza Minnelli

Minnelli cancels UK dates
Liza Minnelli's long-announced return to the London Palladium (where she's previously appeared in concert in 1973, 1978 and 1986) that was due to take place this Sunday (Sept. 20) was suddenly cancelled just days before she was due to fly over. She was also due to appear in Sheffield Sept. 22.

In a statement reported by Playbill here, Minnelli's representatives attributed the cancellation to "the promoter's failure to pay. Due to current economics and unusually high ticket prices, the producer was unable to secure the promised funds. For months Liza has been preparing for these shows and she was devastated to hear of this unfortunate news. She has always thought of London a second home and will miss seeing her friends and devoted fans."

The show was being produced by Rocco Buonvino, who has previously brought Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone and Al Pacino to the London stage without problems.

Opening this Week
Amongst the highlights in the week ahead are:

  • Martin McDonagh's first new play to be premiered in the UK in over a decade sees him return to his original theatrical home the Royal Court (where The Beauty Queen of Leenane first introduced him to the London stage, with Hangmen (opening Sept. 18), with a cast that includes David Morrissey, Reece Shearsmith and Johnny Flynn.
  • Simon Russell Beale, seen in the performance in the Donmar's Temple, he now stars in Mr Foote's Other Leg, opening at Hampstead Theatre Sept. 21 in a company that also features the play's author Ian Kelly, Dervla Kirwan, Forbes Masson, Colin Stinton, Jenny Galloway and Joseph Millson.
  • At the Menier Chocolate Factory, Steven Berkoff returns to the stage to star as Saddam Hussein in Anthony Horowitz's Dinner with Saddam, opening on Sept. 22, in a company that also features Sanjeev Bhaskar and Shobu Kapoor.
  • Beyond London, Edinburgh's Royal Lyceum Theatre Company celebrates its 50th anniversary with a new production of Beckett's Waiting for Godot starring Scottish-born actors Brian Cox and Bill Paterson, running from Sept. 18.

For more updates
Follow me on Twitter here, @shentonstage, for rolling news updates as they happen! And keep checking the international section of Playbill.com for major stories. 


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