Everybody’s Talking About Jamie @ The grand Opera House Review

Everybody’s Talking About Jamie’ is a musical with music by Dan Gillespie and Lyrics by Tom MacRae, and which was inspired by a 2011 BBC 3 Documentary called ‘Jamie: Drag Queen at 16’.

The musical follows a character called Jamie New, a 16 year old boy who dreams of becoming a drag queen and of going to his school formal in a dress, despite facing discrimination and bullying.

The musical was in the Grand Opera House this year from the 8th-12th of March, and I went to see it on the 11th of March. In this blog, I’m going to give you my thoughts on the show, and tell you if it’s worth seeing the next time it goes out on tour.

The musical opens to a scene that shows Jamie (played by Layton Williams) and his class in the middle of their final Careers lesson, and not paying any attention whatsoever. Miss Hedge (played by Lara Denning) eventually ends up calling Pritti Pasha (Sharan Phull) up to the front, who reminds them that they are talking about what careers they would like to go into, after Miss Hedge asks her to do so. After hearing Pritti saying she wants to be a doctor, Miss Hedge lectures the students about why she wants to inspire them to choose proper careers instead of entertainment, and makes her way round them, asking what they want to do which they show little enthusiasm for. That is until she eventually reaches Jamie.
Noticing how Jamie has his nose in a book, she reminds him that she just asked him what career he wants to go into and he tells her that there’s just too many possibilities. Miss Hedge tells Jamie that his recent test results had came back and that they predict that he’ll become a truck driver, but it’s then that the scene soon cuts away, and we learn that Jamie actually does actually know what he wants to be, which is a Drag Queen.
We cut back into the scene partly to see Miss Hedge asking Jamie to repeat what he said again, but he says he doesn’t want to say, and we then get to see the first song in the musical, ‘And You Don’t Even Know It’.

There were many things I liked about the first scene, but one of the main things I liked about it was how the show started during the class’s last careers class, which is something that a lot of us actually know about and remember. Without being rude about the musical’s main plot, not everyone on the planet knows a lot about or understand a lot about Drag and even less about boys deciding to go to prom in a dress so although we move on to those topics quickly, I think we’re introduced to the character of Jamie at a nice pace. And yes, something else I really liked was everything about the performance we saw of ‘And You Don’t Even Know It’, especially because we got to see a more fun side of the teacher, when Miss Hedge performs a rap, and how different that is from other teacher characters in other culture young people are into.
However, I also found it slightly confusing how Jamie admits he wants to be a drag queen, then gets interrupted by Miss Hedge again who wants him to repeat what he wanted to say, how he then hides in himself again, and the first song starts right after that. I would have much preferred for Jamie to admit he wanted to be a drag queen and to start straight into the song after that, as I feel the other elements take away from that slightly.

It was nice watching Jamie return to his home where he lives with his Mum, Margaret New (Amy Ellen Richardson) and I enjoyed finding out more about his family. I liked learning more about why his Mum is raising Jamie on her own, about the help that Jamie’s pseudo aunt, Ray (Sasha Latoya) offers, and why his Dad (played by Cameron Johnson) chooses not to be in the picture, because it shows us character development as well as just the stereotypes and accusations we hear about some characters. I feel like this also gives us hints of Jamie’s family’s histories, as well as the history that he has with friends.

Moving on to when Jamie goes to see about a dress he wants to wear, I found it interesting how we got to find out more about the history of Drag, and how the heroes of the Drag movement are viewed from a younger generation.

Away from everything that Jamie does, however, I also enjoyed seeing the transformation of other characters. I liked seeing how Jamie’s Mum eager not to see her son hurt ends up faking him letters from his Dad who really can’t be bothered with him, the lengths Jamie goes to to try and have a relationship with his dad, the extent his Mum goes to to try and make things right for her son, and the heart to heart Jamie ends up having with Pritti later on in the show, as well as the bad relationships he has with other characters.

All of the performances in it were also brilliant, and apart from the first song which I’ve already mentioned enjoying, another one I’ve found really memorable ‘He’s My Boy’, which the Mum character sings after Jamie finds out it was her writing all of his Dad’s letters.

In fact, it’s hard to point out bits I didn’t enjoy, but since this is a review, I’ll admit that the only bits that disappointed was what I mentioned about the opening, as well as Jamie fighting with his Mum and the choice of words he uses with her. Saying that, I know that’s something that the real life Jamie has also mentioned not being happy with, and it was only added in as a wee bit of theatrical conflict.

But other than that, there’s nothing to complain about.

The full cast of the performance of ‘Everybody’s Talking About Jamie’ that I went to see were:

  • Jamie New: Layton Williams
  • Hugo / Loco Chanelle: Shane Richie
  • Ray: Sasha Latoya
  • Margaret New: Amy Ellen Richardson
  • Miss Hedge: Lara Denning
  • Dean Paxton: George Sampson
  • Pritti Pasha: Sharan Phull
  • Jamie’s Dad / Resident Director: Cameron Johnson
  • Tray Sophisticay / Understudy Hugo / Loco Chanelle / Understudy Dad and Drags: Rhys Taylor
  • Sandra Bullock: Garry Lee
  • Laika VirginL John Paul McCue
  • Cy: Richard Appiach-Serpong
  • Levi / Dance Captain: Simeon Beckett
  • Vicki: Kazmin Borrer
  • Mickey / Understudy Dean: Ryan Highes
  • Fatimah: Jodie Knight
  • Bex: Zahra Jones
  • Sayid / Alternative Jamie: Adam Taylor

Lisa-Marie Holmes was also down as an understudy for Margaret, Ray, and Miss Hedge.

But overall, I think ‘Everybody’s Talking About Jamie’ is well worth going to, especially if you like shows with a good deal of character depth. Non like other musicals, modern day people can sympathise with a lot of the characters, even if you don’t seem yourself in all of them. And the songs were extremely catchy.

So overall, I would rate ‘Everybody’s Talking About Jamie’ 5 stars.

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