Shoes – A song and dance revue, by writer & composer Richard Thomas, with additional lyrics by Alethea Wiles

Dancers: Ashley Andrews, Stephane Anelli, Teneisha Bonner, Chlöe Campbell, Jared Hageman, Drew McOnlie, Ebony Molina, Mandy Montanez, Jo Morris, James O’Connell, Aaron Sillis & Rebecca Sutherland

Singers: Simon Gleeson, Tim Howar, Alison Jiear & Kate Miller-Heidke

Swing and Booth Singers: Alastair Brookshaw & Adey Grummet

North London Chorus
Finchley Children’s Music Group

The Band: Jonathan Williams (Keyboard 1 & Musical Director), Lindy Tennent-Brown (Keyboard 2), Mark Armstrong (Trumpet 1 & Flugelhorn), Oliver Preece (Trumpet 2 & Flugelhorn), Richard Pardy (Alto Saxophone & Clarinet), Roger Wilson (Soprano and Tenor Saxophone & Flute), Alex Meadows (Bass Guitar), Ed Carlile (Drums)

Stephen Mear – Director & Principal Choreographer
Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, Aletta Collins, Kate Prince & Mark Smith – Additional Choreography
Suzanna Walker – Producer
Tom Pye – Set Designer
Laura Hopkins – Costume Designer
Tm Hope & Gaëlle Denis – Film & Animation Artists
Chris Davey – Lighting Designer
Christopher Shutt – Sound Designer

Reviewed by: Michael Darvell

Reviewed: 7 September, 2010
Venue: Sadler’s Wells, London

After the cut and thrust of “Jerry Springer – The Opera” and the controversy surrounding it, writer-composer Richard Thomas has now created a fun-piece, “Shoes”, in which singers vocalise about them and dancers prance about in theirs. And that’s it, for about two hours!

Shoes (Sadler's Wells, 2010). Photograph: Hugo GlendinningThomas wrote many songs, although only about thirty have been used in the show. Choreographer-director Stephen Mear’s job was to include as many different types of shoe, if only to prove that it’s possible to dance in any style of footwear. This must be some kind of feat (no pun!) because these days most women’s shoes look impossible to walk in, let alone go dancing. Apart from all the dancers, singers and choruses, there are 250 pairs of shoes on display, which must be a stage-manager’s nightmare.

They come in all shapes and sizes, from Wellingtons to ski-boots, from trainers to sneakers, from platform-heels to flip-flops, from slippers to Birkenstocks, from wedgies to pumps, from mules to espadrilles, from kitten-heels to slingbacks, from moccasins to ballet shoes, Hush Puppies to sandals, from stilettos to waders – have you ever tried dancing with one wader and one stiletto heel? Here it’s possible but entirely impractical. Then there are Doc Martens, but one name I didn’t catch during the shoe-show was Dr Scholl but, as the music was so loud, I couldn’t always decipher the lyrics. Maybe Scholl’s shoes are now a little passé.

When you say ‘shoes’ which name do you think of immediately? Why, Imelda Marcos, the first lady of shoes who allegedly had more footwear than anyone else in the world. Then there’s Carrie Bradshaw of “Sex and the City” fame and her celebrated Jimmy Choos (rhyming slang for shoes?); Manolo Blahnik and Christian Louboutin, the current high-priests of the fashion-shoe industry; and finally Salvatore Ferragamo, legendary Italian shoemaker to the stars from the 1920s, who shod icons such as Audrey Hepburn, Bridget Bardot, Eva Peron, Marilyn Monroe, Carmen Miranda and Judy Garland – but not her “Wizard of Oz” little red numbers.

Shoes (Sadler's Wells, 2010). Photograph: Hugo GlendinningAll these get full coverage in “Shoes”. One must also not forget the darker side of footwear, namely fetishes, but then each to his or her own. With all this going on, however, from the opening number, ‘A Brief History of Shoes’ to the finale called ‘Red Shoes Breakdown’, there is lot of singing and dancing on the subject of what we put on our feet, some of which has the audience in hysterics but by the end the whole shoebang does not add up to anything with very much substance to it. Some might call it just cobblers. It even has the nerve to use an old Groucho Marx gag, “time wounds all heels”.

The music is loud but unmemorable, although the musicians play up a real storm and the singers are particularly outstanding. Where Alison Jiear and Kate Miller-Heidke find all those top notes and how they keep them going for so long beats me. You may remember Alison’s pole-dance in “Jerry Springer – The Opera”, so will undoubtedly enjoy her tight red leather dress in “Shoes”. Design-wise it is stylish and witty with huge shoes being pushed around the stage. But finally it’s a collection of moments, some good, some not so good, but I suppose there are enough things going on to please some of the people some of the time. With over thirty numbers, if you don’t like one, then another will be shuffling along very soon.

No doubt the show is looking for a transfer, so if it catches on and the public decides it can wear “Shoes”, then they might find they have another “Stomp” or “Tap Dogs” on their hands or their feet. If so it could kick up its heels and run for ever.

  • Shoes is at Sadler’s Wells until Saturday 11 September 2010; evenings at 7.30 p.m., matinee Saturday at 2.30 p.m.
  • Tickets: 0844 412 4300

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