There can’t be a better time for a song and dance show about shoes. Ever since Carrie Bradshaw sashayed her way through Sex and the City murmuring “Manolos” way back in 1998, we’ve been besotted with designer footwear and the celebrities that endorse them.
Jerry Springer - The Opera writer Richard Thomas is the ideal person to depict our fixation. He’s teamed up with West End supremo Stephen Mear (Mary Poppins, Hello Dolly!, Sweet Charity), and together they’ve created a funny, feelgood production that sees us obsessing over Uggs and pining for Berkenstocks. They also show us struggling to walk in stilettos, flapping about in flip-flops, and the ever-astonishing Imelda Marcos justifying her shoe collection. The show keeps its criticism light, providing only the gentlest reprimands of what is, in the cold light of day, an irrational fantasy. Expensive shoes may be ingeniously designed and beautifully made, but they will not make us happy or attractive, and we tire of them almost as soon as the High Street variety.
Shoes is a two-hour show of musical numbers with 12 dancers, four singers and a live band perched on a platform above the stage. The music and lyrics are by Thomas, some co-written with Alethea Wiles, and most of the moves by Mear with additional choreography by Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, Aletta Collins, Kate Prince and Mark Smith. The set by Tom Pye includes a huge stiletto which the dancers use like a giant slide, with the overall look and feel reminding you of up-scale retail.
Everything is cleverly done, but we don’t get much insight into why we are so vulnerable to designer marketing, and the clever people who dream it up. Instead we get a larky two-hour revue-style show that will have you laughing out loud. There are lots of good scenes, especially the perky Ugg sequence, with ever-so-droll lyrics and the dancers wearing short-skinned lamb skin romper suits as well as the famous fluffy boots.
Many will have hoped for an occasionally sharper tone from the man whose irreverence made Jerry Springer so innovative.