After three weeks of Mormons it’s time for something ‘new’ to grace Wales Millennium Centre’s stage – Jamie New, to be specific. After an 18-month pandemic delay, the hit West End musical Everybody’s Talking About Jamie finally comes to Cardiff. Based on the BBC Three documentary, Drag Queen At 16, the show is an inspiring coming-of-age musical – a musical with drag queens, nonetheless – from The Feeling’s Dan Gillespie Sells.
Jamie New is a Sheffield teenager who knows who he is and what he wants to be – a drag queen! To this end, he decides to attend his school prom in a dress, flying in the face of opposition and bullies, all the time being built up by the support of family and friends. Layton Williams is a fantastic Jamie. You get the feeling that, like his character, he has known who he is: his Jamie is appropriately self-assured, at times a little bit selfish. He’s certainly comfortable dancing in Jamie’s coveted red high heels – you don’t get calf muscles like that from dancing in daps.
The show is as much about mum Margaret New as much as it is about Jamie: Amy Ellen Richards plays his ever-supportive single mother, and both her songs, He’s My Boy especially, are emotional ballads that will catch you in your feelings. proves that Margaret and those who perform her are the emotional heart of this musical. Margaret’s best friend Ray (Shobna Gulati) reprises her role from the West End, bringing with her a career in northern English comedy/drama and getting some of the best comic lines.
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Shane Ritchie wasn’t scheduled to perform for this opening night, unfortunately, though I imagine he’s having a whale of a time in the role of elder drag queen Hugo/Loco Chanelle. Bridgend’s Rhys Taylor, who usually plays drag queen Tray Sophisticay, was on in the part last night, and was honestly phenomenal – natural and believable, easily funny, displaying pathos without being a tragic character. A strong argument for gay actors in gay roles.
This was my fourth time seeing Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, so it goes without saying I think you should see it. While the nights are dark and the world is still a bit askew, to paraphrase the musical’s end number – come in from the darkness and bask in Jamie’s glittery spotlight.
Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff Bay, Mon 15 Nov
words CHRIS WILLIAMS
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See Everybody’s Talking About Jamie live
Wales Millenium Centre, now until Sat 20 Nov.