This review is part of my #HonestReview series. I do not receive any free tickets or payment for this review. That way you can be assured of my honest opinion.
The Apollo Theatre. 31, Shaftesbury Avenue. London W1D 7ES
There is something so magical about going to see a show in London. Many years ago, I used to live in Surrey, and I loved the convenience of living close to London and being able to see shows on a regular basis. It certainly isn’t a cheap hobby to have, but to me, it is well worth the price. I am so pleased that my daughter has inherited my love of musicals and we can share our passion. In fact, I can recall that as a young child, she seemed to act as if she was in a musical. She loved Legally Blonde and knew every single word to all of the songs.
I had to go down to London for book research this month, thus I decided we simply had to make the most of our trip and take this opportunity to see a show. The choice and diversity of London shows is immense. My daughter wanted to see Six or Hamilton, but both were sold out of the good seats. I fancied Dolly Parton’s 9 to 5 except that I am not a fan of the lead actors. Finally, I saw there was a new musical called Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, which had achieved a multitude of five-star reviews. It had a similar theme to Legally Blonde: be who you want to be, achieve your ambitions despite the negative opinion of others, plus it also had Drag Queens – glitter, glamour and laughs galore, what’s not to love?
Everybody’s talking about Jamie is inspired by a real-life story. Jamie New, played by Layton Williams is a 16-year old boy growing up in Sheffield, who wants to fulfil his life ambition of becoming a drag queen. He also wants to go to the school prom expressing himself as he truly is. This show reflects that great tradition in stories, of the hero’s journey. Jamie must go on a journey of discovery, enlightenment and self-revelation, before he can truly emerge triumphant as the beautiful Mi Mi Mi. Evidently there would be no realism to the story if Jamie didn’t face obstacles and opposition along the way in the form of a less than supportive teacher, Miss Hedge, (played by Faye Tozer of Steps fame) a father, (Marlon G. Day), who is ashamed of his son’s sexuality and his ambition to be a drag queen and of course, the ubiquitous school bully, Dean (Luke Baker).
As much as Jamie has his haters, he is also buoyed along by an army of supporters including; his loving single Mum, (Rebecca McKinnis) who would go without and do anything to help her son achieve his dream, his neighbour Ray, (Sejal Keshwala) who is more like a big sister and frankly anyone would want her on their side, his best friend Pritti, (Sabrina Sandhu) and a cast of colourful and wonderful drag queens; Loco Chanelle (played by former Coronation Street Star Bill Ward) Sandra Bollock, (Daniel Jacob) Tracy Sophisticay, (James Gillan) and Laika Virgin (Alex Anstey).
The West-End Show came about following a documentary on BBC3 Jamie: Drag Queen at 16. This documentary was seen by a theatre director, Jonathan Butterell, who believed that it would make a great musical. He discussed the idea with Michael Ball who suggested a lyricist and writer, Tom McRea and a composer The Feeling frontman Dan Gillespie Sells. The musical was developed in Sheffield. It was then transferred into the West End in November 2017, where it swiftly became a huge success. The musical is being made into a film.
I had very little knowledge of the show prior to the performance and for the first few minutes, I wasn’t sure if I was going to warm to the characters and enjoy the show. However, once the first notes began of the poppy and immensely catchy song, ‘Don’t Even Know It’ and that was it for me. I was hooked and likewise it was the same for my husband and daughter. The music is at times uplifting and punchy and at other times whimsical and emotional. Everything seems to flow so easily and simply, which is probably its greatest success. Layton Williams was born to play this role and he is instantly likeable and charismatic. A triple threat; he can sing, act and dance all seemingly effortlessly. In fact, he’s dancing even when he’s not moving. And singing, even when someone else is speaking. The way in which he masters those shiny red platform heels is an act of pure magic. He plays the character with a beautiful soul that makes him steal almost every single scene.
The supporting cast is quite small for a West End Show but there is nothing insignificant in terms of their performances. Boy can these people sing and dance! Talent oozes through every second, from Pritti’s haunting performance of ‘It means Beautiful’ to the incredibly hilarious and passionate retelling of drag Queen Loco Chanelle’s backstory by Bill Ward in “The Legend of Loco Chanelle.” The later was equally hilarious because of a danced mime by the drag queens.
This show has more witty punch lines than a Marx Brothers film and for the full two and a half hours it remains forever joyous and uplifting. I’ve never seen such an appreciative and embracing audience, who gave the show a very well-deserved standing ovation. It’s so refreshing to see such a diverse cast of characters in a mainstream musical, who are more representative of our multi-cultural World. This is a musical for our modern age about diversity and acceptance. Of course, we all know that bullies never triumph. They only bully because it is a symptom of their own insecurities and lack of success. There is nothing more gratifying than when the bully gets their final comeuppance.
Undoubtedly, this is a show which deserves even more than a five-star review. You won’t regret a single second, and like me, you’ll still be humming the tunes and tapping your feet for a long time after the final curtain call. Book now for the UK Tour starting in 2020.
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