RuPaul Charles, queen mother to throngs of drag children all over the country, has always said, “Anybody who can step out of the house with a pair of heels and some lipstick on their lips is my hero.” Well, Mother Ru, prepare yourself for Jamie New. In Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, a young man shines a glimmer of light on a small-minded town, but this coming-of-age tale has a bit more glitter and sass than they ever could’ve bargained for.
Based on Jenny Popplewell’s 2011 BBC documentary, Jamie: Drag Queen at 16, this musical was written by Dan Gillespie Sells with book and lyrics by Tom McRae, and this live performance was broadcast across the UK from the West End’s Apollo Theatre in 2018. A film adaptation starring Max Harwood, Academy Award nominee Richard E. Grant, and Emmy nominee Sharon Horgan is in the works and slated to open in Fall 2020. The original production was nominated for 5 Laurence Olivier Awards, and it’s the definition of a crowd-pleaser.
Living with his single mother in Sheffield, Jamie New (John McCrea) is teased for being flamboyantly gay, but he has another secret. On his sixteenth birthday, his mother gifts him a pair of red patent leather pumps, and Jamie reveals that he wants to be a famous drag queen. When he puts the heels on for the very first time, we are reminded of Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz or Lola from Kinky Boots. Jamie quits waiting for permission to be his true self.
He hits the ground running with his education in becoming a fabulous drag queen. At a secret drag queen boutique, he meets the owner, Hugo (Phil Nichol), who gives Jamie some advice on how to avoid just being a boy in a dress. He also introduces him to Loco Chanelle, Hugo’s own drag persona, in the campy number, “The Legend of Loco Chanelle (and the Blood Red Dress).”
As Jamie, McCrea gives us a hero to root for who can strut his stuff in high heels. Both his speaking and singing voices convey a range of emotions that other actors his age wish they had, and his physical comedy is performed with gusto and an appropriate lack of vanity. He’s fabulous. Jamie’s biggest support comes from his mother, Margaret, in a luminous performance from Josie Walker. Every mother who has a child come out to her should follow Margaret’s example of how to support her child. Even though she makes some questionable decisions, Margaret’s love for Jamie never wavers and she constantly reminds him to own who he is.
While there are scary moments in the show tied to bigotry and confusion, the musical is a learning experience for everyone. Everybody’s Talking About Jamie succeeds because of how much we needs hopeful stories. The music is effortlessly infectious and the performances are true and honest. Living in our own truths is how we grow as a community and as a society, so we could all learn a lot from Jamie New. This theatrical event captures your heart from the opening musical number and never lets go even after you leave the cinema.
~ Joey Moser
Awards & Accolades