Dragging shy Charlie into whole new world

Kinky Boots is one of those cases where the stage musical has proved more successful than the movie on which it is based.

Tuesday, 4th June 2019, 11:29 am
Updated Wednesday, 5th June 2019, 15:12 pm
Joel Harper-Jackson in rehearsals for Kinky Boots

The 2005 film starring Joel Edgerton and Chiwetel Ejiofor earned mixed reviews and a modest box office return but the Broadway stage show received 13 nominations, winning four including Best Musical, while the West End production won three Laurence Olivier Awards and was nominated for four more.

Inspired by true events, Kinky Boots tells of Charlie Price who is struggling to live up to his father's expectations and continue the family shoe manufacturing business in Northampton. With the factory's future in the balance, help arrives in the unlikely form of a drag queen in need of some sturdy new stilettos.

One person that the original film did not pass by is Joel Harper-Jackson who is playing Charlie Price on the UK tour which comes to the Sheffield Lyceum next week.

“Kinky Boots was one of my favourite films as a kid growing up,” he reveals. “It was so weird. It wasn’t a massive hit but I just thought it was so brilliant and so much fun and the guy (Chiwetel Ejiofor) playing Lola was so good.

“It didn’t have much of a budget but I felt it was a great traditional British film with so much heart and goodness to it. I think a lot of people thought that as well and they decided to make a musical of it and it’s been a massive success.”

The musical actually originated in America but unlike the musical of the Full Monty which they re-set in Buffalo Kinky Boots remained in Northampton.“You just got American actors doing their best with English accents,” laughs the actor. “I saw it on Broadway but I think it just works so much better over here.

“Obviously it’s got singing and dancing and so is quite different from the film but it’s still got the essence and the characters. Most of the solos are for Lola and myself but there is a lot of chorus numbers. The music is written by Cyndi Lauper so it’s very poppy and catchy and she has really done it well. There’s a sense of Cyndi Lauper in a lot of it, it’s done very well. Harvey Fierstein wrote a brilliant book, very witty, and I think he’s done it a lot of justice.”

By all accounts the stage show has made Charlie less of a wimp than he was in the movie. “Charlie is the everyman that people can relate to and is from an ordinary family far away from the world of drag queens and sequins, they’re a bit straightlaced,” explains Harper-Jackson.

“He’s got a lovely journey. He’s not a very worldly boy. He’s lived a quite sheltered life and has experienced anything outside his small town and is very naïve. He meets these people who are very different from him which changes the way he sees life. He lightens up and - excuse my language - grows a bit of balls.”

Joel Harper-Jackson, who is from the Stoke area, trained in musical theatre and has worked mostly in that genre, including Jesus Christ Superstar at Regents Park Open Air Theatre and rock opera Myth: The Rise and Fall of Orpheus.

Last time he was in Sheffield, however, was in the play, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

“My passion was always singing and acting and I have worked for some years in musical theatre but I made it known I wanted to do a play and I did that and I also want to do television so I just wanted to do a variety of things.”

Kinky Boots is at the Lyceum from Tuesday to Saturday.