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Published 8 September 2010

Who knew you could tap dance in platform shoes? Apparently you can. This rather impressive sight is just one of many scenes in dance revue Shoes which pay loving homage to footwear.

In fact, Richard Thomas’s show at Sadler’s Wells is one big, surreal prayer to shoes. The creator of Jerry Springer The Opera has applied his hallmark irreverent wit to a subject that he admits in the programme he once knew practically nothing about. But through his research for the show he has come to hold shoes in the high esteem every woman knows they deserve; and so he should.

Through 29 different musical compositions, Shoes pays homage to a multitude of footwear, from the humble flip flop and the austere Birkenstock through trainers, waders and Hush Puppies to high heels, platforms and stilettos so high they make the wearer stand en pointe.

Projected through the voices of four singers – including Jerry Springer’s Alison Jiear – Thomas gives us a mock health and safety course teaching women how to walk in heels, a hilarious homage to Ugg boots featuring a troupe of Australian sheep, a bizarre story about a cursed wedding slipper, and a group of nuns giving praise for shoe designer Salvatore Ferragamo. Additional snippets include a screwball take on various shoe sayings: what do you do if the shoe is on the other foot? Take it off and put it on the right one, of course.

Principal choreographer Stephen Mear – he of last year’s Hello, Dolly! and the current production of Sweet Charity – and four guest choreographers step up to the mark with choreography that matches the humour provided by Thomas’s lyrics. Their 12 hugely talented dancers prove capable of every dance style thrown at them, including highly physical contemporary dance, hip hop, tap, ballet and musical chorus line. At times the various shoes worn by the dancers are almost eclipsed by their toned bodies: when a man in a flesh-coloured corset comes on wearing one blue sparkling cowboy boot, it is not the shoe that attracts the eye.

As much as Thomas’s creation is meant to show off Shoes, it ends up showing off the talents of the people who wear them, which are infinitely more impressive. Ebony Molina, whose skills can normally be seen in Sweet Charity in the West End, gives a particularly eye-catching performance: not only can she adapt to any dance style thrown at her, but she also proves to have a beautiful singing voice as she takes centre stage in a melancholy number.

You don’t have to be Imelda Marcos – who makes an appearance here – to appreciate footwear. Even Thomas has been converted into a shoe fan, and with this show he embodies on stage what every woman already knows; there is nothing like a great pair of shoes to make you feel good.



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