Review: Everybody's Talking About Jamie at the Apollo Theatre
Based on a true story, Everybody's Talking About Jamie tells the story of 16 year old Jamie New. When we first meet him on his birthday, it is a pair of red stilettos that introduce us to his dreams of becoming a drag queen and wearing a dress to his school prom.
Jamie (Layton Williams) is your typical teenager in some ways. He has so many dreams that he hopes to accomplish, he finds guidance from his mother, Margaret (Rebecca McKinnis) and her friend Ray (Sejal Keshwala), as well as being supported by his best friend Pritti (Sabrina Sanhu). He also is the target of Dean (Luke Baker), the class bully, and finds that his school and teacher Miss Hedge (Faye Tozer when I attended) are not always fully supportive of what he wants to do.
However, Jamie's search for a dress leads him to Hugo (Bill Ward) who tells him the story of drag queen Loco Chanelle and introduces him to the drag queens at Legs Eleven to try and make Jamie's dreams come true. Despite the support and love he has in his life, Jamie struggles in his hopes for a relationship with his absent father and the problems he faces in school. All of this adds up to create a show that is both uplifting and heartbreaking as we watch Jamie and those around him handle everything that life is throwing at them.
Written by Dan Gillespie Sells and Tom Macrae, Everybody's Talking About Jamie is beautifully done with a standout pop-style score. Under Jonathan Butterell's direction, the show is perfectly paced and attention is paid to every moment that requires it, whether it be humorous or emotional.
The cast is absolutely top notch, especially led by Williams. He perfectly embodies Jamie New and his desire to step into the spotlight. McKinnis gave a heart wrenching performance as Margaret, especially in the song "He's My Boy," while Ward and the other drag queens provide an excellent contrast to Jamie's world at school, and create memorable moments in both their acting and singing with the song "Over the Top." Tozer's performance was also particularly memorable as the conflicted Miss Hedge, and she delivered outstanding vocals during "Work of Art." The entire cast is also supported by an incredible ensemble whose singing and dancing is absolutely stunning.
What makes Everybody's Talking About Jamie so special cannot be put down to just one thing. The story, though it may not seem it, is a universal one that deserves to be seen and heard. Everyone can find something to relate to in it and everyone can learn something in it. It shows us that there's a place where we belong, and I can predict that everyone will be talking about Jamie for a long time to come.