It was funny, on point, up to date, inclusive, brilliant, tragic, uplifting and joyous. Everybody’s Talking About Jamie at the Liverpool Empire was utterly amazing and I think you should all go and see it immediately.
The musical tells the story of 16 year-old Jamie who sets off on a journey to become a drag queen and wears a dress to his school prom. Based on a true story and 2011 documentary Jamie: Drag Queen at 16, the show does not sensationalise the story but portrays a brilliant yet absolutely joyous re-telling of Jamie’s story.
Co-incidentally Jamie is from Toronto, a former mining village near Bishop Auckland where my husband grew up so I know the area well. The musical version is set in another former mining village outside Sheffield, as it was first staged at The Crucible in the city.
From the first scene with the kids in the year 11 class you know it’s going to be a riot. No cringeworthy teenage lines that sound like they’ve been drafted by a 40 year old man, this is bang on, up to date savagery with even a put down around lateral flow tests, and being thankful for masks.
Jamie, West End star Layton Williams delivers a simply marvellous performance that commands everyone to watch him from the opening lines of ‘And You Don’t Even Know It’ until he takes his final bow, alone as the lights go down.
The chat, the toe-tapping tunes and the comedic genius is balanced with some heartbreaking softer scenes.
Stand out moments for me – Josie Walker as Margaret, Jamie’s mum, who pours her heart into the incredible and spell bounding ‘If I Met Myself Again’. Mina Anwar, being utterly hilarious as Aunty Ray but also delivering some heart warming lines such as ‘You don’t need a Dad mate you’ll always have me’ (I paraphrase but you get the idea’). It’s all about family, just a different style of one.
I also adored the relationship between Jamie and his bestie, Pritti. The discussion around her hijab was particularly good. I also can’t recall ever seeing a girl dance and sing in a hijab in a mainstream UK musical before and during Jamie I saw two. Bring it on.
I haven’t even got started on the parts of the musical that show off the amazing drag queens. The costumes, the music, the joy and the fun. They were simply superb.
Throw into all of this a live band that you can see (ish) at the top of the stage and you have one spectacular show.
It was a full house in Liverpool last night and without question everyone loved it, demonstrated in true Liverpool style by the entire audience being on their feet! Hands clapping loudly.