Book and Lyrics: Tom MacRae
Music: Dan Gillespie Sells
Director: Matt Ryan
The vibrant and edgy musical,Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, struts its way onto the Milton Keynes stage as part of its UK tour. Having started life as a BBC documentary, Jamie: Drag Queen at 16, Everybody’s Talking About Jamie has been adapted into a smash hit West End musical.
We follow the titular character as he navigates his way through the prejudice and bullying in his school in his pursuit of finding and unleashing his inner Drag Queen.
Taking on the role of Jamie is the effervescent Layton Williams, a tour de force in red killer heels. Williams has portrayed this role both in the West End and on its national and international tours. As such, he has built within this role a comfortable countenance, whereby he has pushed past merely performing the role and is living every second of it, in a way that would make Stanislavski proud. Every second of dialogue, every single movement feels spontaneous, and he oozes charisma as he sashays from scene to scene. Williams is a pocket rocket, constantly surging blasts of energy that pulsate through the other cast members and the audience alike. He walks a fine line between portraying Jamie as a wide-eyed, innocent boy who is desperately seeking acceptance and the fierce Drag Queen he will later become.
Jamie is guided in his journey by local drag legend, Loco Chanelle (Shane Ritchie), who has a magnetic stage presence. Ritchie’s comic timing is incredible and has the audience doubled over with laughter. The contrast in characterisation between his man-next-door portrayal of Hugo and his fiercely fabulous Loco Chanelle is stark and Ritchie can seamlessly flip between the two.
Margaret New (Amy Ellen Richardson) has a warm chemistry with her onstage son. The show is a swinging pendulum of emotion, going from extreme highs to intense lows and it is Richardson who often sucker punches the audience with a hefty dose of reality. She quietly sacrifices her own possessions so that Jamie will get his dream, whilst never once taking the credit for it. Her solo numbers If I Met Myself Again and He’s My Boy not only showcase her incredible voice but hit home with a brutally honest expression of the realities of single parenthood.
The incredible chemistry that she has not only with Williams but also with Sasha Latoya, who plays Ray, drives the show. The three of them have the audience howling with laughter only to have them wiping away the tears seconds later.
No story would be complete without an antagonist, and in this one, it comes in the shape of Dean Paxton (George Sampson). Sampson brings his iconic dance moves to the role and performs some incredible acrobatic tricks. But here he really shows his acting skills. He is the quintessential meathead that we all recognise from school. From his jutting jawline to his drawling swagger, he perfectly embodies the classroom bully too narrow-minded to accept an openly gay classmate. He plays well against Williams, and they have excellent onstage chemistry which makes the whole production pop.
The gloriously diverse ensemble clicks into place like a jigsaw under Jonathan Butterell’s tight direction and delivers Katie Prince’s choreography seamlessly. The delivery of Tom Macrae’s one-liners is surgically precise every time and the audience is enraptured by the show’s brand of innuendo-based humour.
The show is a flamboyant whirlwind that will take you from the cold dull Sheffield high school to the glamorous world of Drag, it’s a modern-day fable with a message of tolerance and love, with themes of identity and acceptance embroidered throughout.
With an original score of catchy pop tunes, written by Dan Gillespie-Sells and writer Tom Macrae, this show truly will have Everybody Talking About Jamie for years to come.
Runs until 23rd April and on tour