Review: On Stage, 'Everybody's Talking About Jamie' Is a Jubilant High

by Kevin Taft

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Wednesday January 26, 2022

Layton Williams in  'Everybody's Talking About Jamie'
Layton Williams in 'Everybody's Talking About Jamie'   (Source:Johan Persson)

Direct from London after a terrific film adaptation (that sadly had a botched release), the effervescent musical "Everybody's Talking About Jamie" explodes onto the Ahmanson stage, leaving audiences crying and dancing their way out of the theater. 

Based on a true story (and short documentary called "Firecracker"), "Jamie" is about Sheffield, England teenager Jamie New (Layton Williams) who, when pressed by his hard-edged teacher Miss Hedge (Gillian Ford) to tell their career class what he wants to do for a living, admits to himself and his best friend Pritti (Hiba Elchikhe) that he wants to be a drag queen.

Supported by his warm and stalwart mother, Margaret (Melissa Jacques), and her best friend Ray (Shobna Gulati), Jamie becomes the proud owner of a pair of sky-high red high heels that he uses as a jumping off point to get a dress which he plans to wear to prom. When he goes looking for clothes at a drag queen shop, he meets Hugo (Roy Haylock, a.k.a. Bianca Del Rio), who offers him a spot opening a local drag show. Hugo becomes his mentor and friend, and Jamie begins his journey to dazzle the world.

Being a drag queen wannabe in a small English town doesn't fly too well with the Jamie's fellow students, their parents, and the teachers, but Jamie's newfound freedom to be who he is won't stop him from pursuing his dream. While he has opposition from his absentee dad (Cameron Johnson) and local bully Dean Paxton (George Sampson), Jamie attempts to put one heel in front of the other and live the life he wants.

Roy Haylock aka Bianca Del Rio and company in "Everybody's Talking About Jamie"
Roy Haylock aka Bianca Del Rio and company in "Everybody's Talking About Jamie"  (Source: Johan Persson)

Truth be told, I saw the very talented Layton Williams perform the role of Jamie in London in the fall of 2018, so it was nice to see a familiar face back on stage. Joining this production,"RPDR" alum Del Rio has her moments, but it is still Williams who impresses the most. Haylock is entertaining, but the stunt casting tended to pull focus. This is Jamie's show, and all eyes should be on him.
 
The standout of the cast is Jacques as Jamie's mom. Her compassion and unwavering support of her son is illuminated after an argument that is followed by the show's standout ballad, "He's My Boy." The number is played simply in Margaret's kitchen, but the power and emotion she puts into the song gives chills. 
 
Elchikhe is also terrific as Jamie's bestie, who has identity issues of her own and has the other best ballad of the night, "It Means Beautiful."
 
As expected, Williams has a few rousing numbers too, namely the opening banger "And You Don't Even Know It" and "The Wall in My Head."
 
Directed by Jonathan Butterell (who also directed the film version), the show is infectious fun, even when a few numbers could have stood some more movement. The show comes pretty much intact from the London stage — however, some minor changes were made, most notably the mention of COVID. One character even uses antibacterial on her hands more than once during the show. (No one wears a mask, though.)

The film dropped some numbers, including Loco Chanelle's backstory (and big number), to streamline the plot, but they make for welcome additions in the stage version. The stage version and film complement each other very well.
 
"Jamie" is a show that should get a lot more recognition and fanfare than it does. Why it never transferred to Broadway is a head-scratcher, especially since it is (finally) an original show not based on a book or hit film. The songs are terrific, the cast is aces, and there are plenty of much-needed messages about unconditional love and acceptance to send everyone out on a jubilant high.
 
While the film is available now on Amazon Prime, Los Angeles residents should seek out this fun and exuberant show and come to realize why everybody is talking about Jamie!
 

"Everybody's Talking About Jamie" runs from January 16th through February 20th, 2022 at the Ahmanson Theatre, Los Angeles. For tix visit CTGLA.org.

Kevin Taft is a screenwriter/critic living in Los Angeles with an unnatural attachment to 'Star Wars' and the desire to be adopted by Steven Spielberg.