Following its success on the West End, Tom Macrae’s new musical, Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, comes to Edinburgh as part of its UK tour. Based on the 2011 television documentary, Jamie: Drag Queen at 16, it recreates the true story of British schoolboy, Jamie Campbell, who dreamed of becoming a drag queen despite everything put in his way.
Jamie New is the hero everybody wants. He is an underdog. Bullied by his peers, brought down by his father, and struggling with who he wants to be, he subsequently rails against perceived societal norms. And it is straight into the classroom, and to some of these barriers, that the show begins. “And You Don’t Even Know It” offers a punchy, gritty song and dance, using a simple but very effective set; desks and chairs complete with lights which can be pulled in and out and rolled off stage frame the opening number and set the scene for what will be a powerful, and at times emotive, musical.
Layton Williams is perfectly cast in the lead role with all the sass and vulnerability required, although it does at times feel that he is unable to really project his vocals. Someone who has no such trouble is Amy Ellen Richardson who plays Jamie’s hugely supportive mum and stuns with her rendition of “He’s My Boy” during Act 2.
There is plenty to like about this musical – from the hugely entertaining trio of Laika Virgin (John Paul McCue), Sandra Bollock (Garry Lee), and Tray Sophisticay (Rhys Taylor, who also takes on the role of Hugo/Loco Chanelle for the opening performance) to some impressive dance numbers choreographed by Kate Prince. The set, designed by multi-award winning Anna Fleischle, is incredibly effective and provides the perfect backdrop for the show while also being easy to turn round for different scenes. Last, but not least, are those killer heels which Williams manages to chaînés and arabesque in with aplomb.
However, this is not a musical with those infectiously catchy numbers that will get stuck in your head for weeks. There are also some scenes that feel unnecessary, making for an overly long production. Despite this, the audience sympathise with the characters who don’t fit in, will Jamie to achieve his dreams and clap along in all the right places.