“The boy in the dress who was born to impress” has rocked up to Wimbledon this week in his knockout red heels.
Everybody’s Taking About Jamie, loosely based on the real-life story of Jamie Campbell from Sheffield, was a West End hit from its arrival in 2017, and is currently on tour. With music by Dan Gillespie Sells and book/lyrics by Tom MacRae, this is a lively piece about dreams dusted with glitter.
At this performance (and all this week bar Saturday), Jamie is played by Adam Taylor. He has the skills to put across the teen who still wants to play dress-up and be the centre of attention on stage. Whether leading his classmates in raucous daydreaming dance or struggling with his body image, he’s very good throughout.
Taylor has warm chemistry with Amy Ellen Richardson, Sasha Latoya (family friend Ray), and Shane Richie, who all play key figures in his story. He also has the sass and self-assurance to show Jamie’s journey. No wonder the audience applaud when he stands up to bully Dean (George Sampson) or teacher Miss Hedge (Lara Denning).
Margaret New (Richardson), his mother who was abandoned by her husband (resident director Cameron Johnson in a small but significant part) who just wanted a son to play football with, is a touching character who recognises her Jamie is her greatest contribution to the world and supports him no matter what.
As the retired drag queen Hugo/Loco, Richie is excellent both with the witty asides and the steely protective wall he has built to hide a tragic backstory. The film version brought this out more clearly, but we can join the dots given his age and professional world.
Once Jamie dons Loco’s blood red dress and introduces Mimi Me to the stage, there’s a shift which brings his school experiences and relationship with his dad to a head.
A hurrah too for the three drag queens in the show, especially John Paul McCue/Mary Mac who shows up as Laika Virgin, adding humour to proceedings.
As for best friend Pritti (Sharan Phull), her plaintive song Beautiful opens out her character and friendship with Jamie. It’s done very well and means that she herself undergoes a sea change from shyness by the end of this fairytale.
Jamie, prom princess, may get to go to the ball, finding out who he is (“you’re sixteen, you’re still cooking”, notes Hugo) and being celebrated. It’s a great note to end on and an energetic hurrah for gay pride.
Image credit: Johan Persson. Photo of Adam Taylor as Jamie – New Wimbledon Theatre Facebook.