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Kinky Boots’ third birthday: meet the show’s leads

As Kinky Boots celebrates its third birthday in the West End, Matthew Hemley meets the shows leads who are part of the final company for the show, which closes in January.


Oliver Tompsett – Charlie Price

What is it like to star in Kinky Boots?
It’s a lot of fun and it’s hard work – but most fun shows are hard work. Luckily our audiences, 99% of the time, are electric because they bounce off what we give. As long as we give our all from the get-go, they are on board and it bounces back and forth. I don’t think I have been in a show that has had that consistently throughout the show.

What do you think makes the show such a hit with audiences?
I think it’s the combination of the camp, glittery, show numbers with the heart that lies behind that. So much of the time, we get big musical numbers that are camp for the sake of it. In Kinky Boots we throw that at you, but the message – about being who you want to be – is as important and deep as a play that maybe that takes itself a bit more seriously.

With shows such as Kinky Boots, Everybody’s Talking About Jamie and Fun Home, it seems theatre is leading the way in changing people’s perceptions of things…
I think the UK is becoming more liberal as each day goes by and that’s a good thing. We can’t sit back and say our job is done. We need to keep promoting inclusivity and diversity and allowing people to be who they want to be. This show is a massive step in that direction. It certainly made me think a lot watching the show. I know some people say they want to bring their kids to this show and then hesitate, wondering if the kids will be ready. We say that is the exact reason you should bring them. The sooner they are exposed, the more they won’t see it as being unusual.

What was it like to find out the show was closing so soon after being cast in it?
We did our first week, and then the producers came in on the Monday and said: “So the show’s closing,” and we were like: “Oh no”. But they were brilliant. They didn’t want it to go and they gave us seven months’ notice. I’ve done shows that have given two months’ notice – or two weeks’ notice.

There has been a big movement recently to give understudies in the West End more credit. Do you agree with this?
I understand where a producer comes from, if they want to protect their show when they have a celebrity billed on the poster. I understand that dilemma. But the understudies can often be more talented than the people playing the part. The people who walk out of a show because they didn’t get to see who they wanted to see are not there to see the show. They are coming to see the person. Nine times out of 10, where a name isn’t involved, everything should be done to credit the people who are doing the hard work.

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Oliver Tompsett, Natalie McQueen and Simon-Anthony Rhoden. Photo: Matt Crockett

Natalie McQueen – Lauren

What does Kinky Boots mean to you?
It’s one of the most fun shows I’ve done – if it looks like we are having a good time, we really are.

How does it feel to be part of the last West End cast?
It’s bittersweet. It’s really nice that not only is it on my CV but I also get to be the last West End Lauren. I wish it wasn’t closing, it’s got too much of an amazing message. But I was in a show for a long time that isn’t going anywhere and I could have stayed there forever – because I was getting to do a show that is incredible. So it’s probably a good thing they have kicked me out before I try to stay a million years…

You trained at CPA Studios, which recently announced its sudden closure. What did you think when you heard about that?
It was awful. I don’t know the ins and outs. I didn’t just go to the college there, I trained from eight or nine years old at the part-time weekend school – it was a huge part of my childhood and the reason why I got my first ever West End job. Colin, who ran it, was a lovely man and I am gutted – I think it was out of his hands. And I am gutted for the students who haven’t started and the students in the middle of training. I was 16 when I trained at the college, and if someone had stopped my training halfway through, I would have been heartbroken.

Simon-Anthony Rhoden – Lola

You covered the role of Lola previously. Did you still have to audition for the part?
Yes, I had to audition, even though I had done it and knew it and been on the stage. There were lots of people who could do it, so I had to go up for it like everyone else. I was thrilled when they said I’d got it.

What does the role mean to you?
A lot of people ask me what my dream role is. Growing up and knowing I wanted to act, I never knew a role like this would exist – and so I would say this is my dream role. It’s an amazing story, so current and relevant. I love to sing and dance, and acting is my passion, so this has been an amazing experience for me.

What’s it like seeing the audiences up on their feet at the end every night?
I get emotional at the end of every show – they sing and dance along and it means they have listened and learned and they accept and are on board and on our side. I don’t expect everyone to get it, or jump on board straight away – people take their own time to develop their opinion on topics. But when I see a reaction like that, I am blown away.