A review by Mary Couzens for EXTRA! EXTRA!


A Sadler’s Wells Production    




new cast

Richard Thomas with Stephen Mear

Peacock Theatre

8 February –  3 April 2011
Followed by a national and international tour in Spring 2012



This patchy pastiche musical by Jerry Springer the Opera composer Richard Thomas, with choreographer Stephen Mear, is about what its' title suggests - SHOES. Rather than offering a stroll through time via popular songs centring around footwear, i.e. 'Blue Suede Shoes', it's alternately a cross between a collection of blaringly colourful adverts,  verbal parodies of shoe themed proverbs (i.e. ‘walk a mile..’), stereotypes and cliché characters (naughty nuns, closet gays, hetro womanisers, shop till you drop Sex in the City type women, etc.) , atypical religion trashing and other politically incorrect scenarios featuring various well known brands of shoes such as Doctor Martens, Nike and Jimmy Choo utilising a mixture of musical and dance styles from disco through opera and tango, often sampling from more than one genre at a time. Granted, the show is meant to be lampooning musicals and musical styling as well, but regardless, there were times when I realised it was meant to be funny, but regardless, felt it was, to coin a phrase, about as 'funny as a crutch.' It’s just possible that many of the same obviously manipulative devices employed in then novel Jerry SpringerThe Opera (2003) are also being employed here and their ability to surprise and/or shock has dwindled.

If you have a complaint, it's always best to go to the head instead of the feet. Cerebrally speaking, in this case, however, I can only offer you a considered opinion, which is that this musical is in dire need of re-souling. As, at its rather heartless core, it's distinctly devoid of any signs of soul or gut-level vitality, apart from the energy evidenced by its talented, hard-working cast of dancers, singers and musicians, who do their utmost to generate some sparks.

Granted, I've long been a fan of intentionally inspiring musicals with lyrics capable of encouraging afterthought, and melody lines which are more than distinguishable from one another. Apparently I'm not alone in that thinking as revivals of classics like Leonard Bernstein's West Side Story, nearly any show from Lerner and Lowe's or Roger and Hammerstein canon,  or less vintage shows by West Side Story lyricist Stephen Sondheim continue to pack houses and win awards, wherever they play, the world over. However, Shoes, like the products it focuses on, seems like a disposable commodity. But perhaps that is its' point - that musical theatre itself is expendable. There must however, be some less tedious way to demonstrate that philosophy than to merely reflect the worst whims of your audience back at them (wan/sparse laughter of recognition) without injecting enough dark humour and/or wisdom to enable them to learn from the experience of watching. Point No. 2? Enjoyment? I'm all for that, but there's little joy to be found in reflecting solely on shallowness.

Criticism aside, talent abounds in this uneven show,  with highlights including three female dancers skillful, almost acrobatic enactment of Stephen Mear's daunting choreography, across double beds, as three lust-lorn women each try to get over their (unbeknown to them) mutual Lothario in an otherwise drab segment centering around their man's 'brushed suede' shoes. Other jumping off points include stilettoes, shoe-aholics, the utlimate trainers, and, of course, the proverbial red shoes, which are worn by an ensemble of dancers in every guise, from ballet slippers to thigh high boots.

If you've seen Jerry Springer the Opera you'll know what kind of music to expect here - a blend of warbling operatic passages, interspersed with hand on hip harmonies, inflected with spurts of ad-speak, disco and what have you in a montage of sound and in this case, text and images drifting across the set and its' screen. An oversized stiletto with a built in staircase forms the centerpiece.

As one of the singers observed at the outset, 'If you don't love shoes, this is going to be a long evening.  Matinee performance aside, amid the imagined anarchy of whoops and less enthusiastic theatre goers quietly asking themselves 'what the show was all about, I resolved to save my anarchy for the streets. Like the worship of shoes themselves, this is strictly a love it or leave it affair.




Performances: Tue - Sat at 7.30pm, Sat matinees at

2.30pm, Sun at 4pm


Tickets: £15 - £49.50

Ticket office: 0844 412 4322 /




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