The Ahmanson Theatre is excited about its latest production – especially after COVID necessitated the premature closure of its entertaining and whimsical holiday presentation of “A Christmas Carol.” Most certainly the North American premiere of the West End hit musical EVERYBODY’S TALKING ABOUT JAMIE is sure to please – especially since Layton Williams and Roy Haylock will be reprising their London roles as Jamie and Hugo/Loco Chanelle. Inspired by a true story and winner of three WhatsOnStage awards including Best New Musical, EVERYBODY’S TALKING ABOUT JAMIE opened in 2017 and wowed British audiences until the pandemic struck and closed theaters around the world.
Jamie (Layton Williams) is 16, a high school senior being pushed by his counselor Miss Hedge (Gillian Ford) to talk about his future plans while he hides his true dreams from almost everyone. Only his mother (Melissa Jacques) and his best friend Ray (Shobna Gulati) know what’s going on inside his secret mind. Jamie wants more than anything in the world to wear a dress to the senior prom. And then he meets Hugo (Roy Haylock), who runs a fashion boutique specializing in flashy outfits for men who entertain audiences dressed as women. And who also just happens to be the retired Loco Chanelle, one of the town’s most famed drag queens. It doesn’t take long for Hugo to realize that Jamie is ready to be groomed for his show biz debut as MimiMi. All the white in the company of popular performers Sandra Bollock (Leon Craig), Tray Sophisticay (James Gillan), and Leika Virgin (David O’Reilly), Jamie’s dreams are coming true – or are they?
At first glance, EVERYBODY’S TALKING ABOUT JAMIE is a clever and bouncy musical about what we secretly want and what reality will give us. As such, it is an entertaining and fun tale steeped in youthful vigor and energy. But the production is actually about much more as it tiptoes through multiple minefields that we all faced when we were 16. There is adolescent angst about approval and acceptance by one’s peers, along with issues of self-esteem and self-image as kids try to figure out who they are and where they are going on the rocky road to adulthood. And then there are the very real and poignant family relationships that must be navigated – with mom, who turns out to be the perfect accepting and sacrificing mother we all hope for – and his macho absent dad, who can never allow himself to accept his quirky son. Add to this elements of sexual identification – gay or straight? And how about dealing with the high school bully? Further nuances enter into the equation in a class of racially and ethnically mixed youngsters who must figure out complex questions about the future while holding true to their heritage. Is it any wonder that the audience broke out into cheers when a conflicted Jamie hugged his mother, bested the school bully, and got to wear that elusive dress to the prom?
Kudos to Director Jonathan Butterell and a very talented cast who brought the show to life. To add humor and charm, the production even featured a trio of real live drag queens. And a special nod to Melissa Jacques, whose resounding vocal efforts led to an audience ovation. The production also has a real live band to back up the tunes, as well as choreographer Kate Prince to keep the many feet moving. The entire production team did a splendid job of infusing life and energy into the musical. Inspired by the FIRECRACKER documentary film, “Jamie: Drag Queen at 16,” EVERYBODY’S TALKLING ABOUT JAMIE will tickle your fancy with good old-fashioned musical entertainment – but may also spark memories about the pitfalls and perks of growing up in today’s world.
EVERYBODY’S TALKING ABOUT JAMIE runs through February 20, 2022, with performances at 8 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays, 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. on Saturdays, and 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. on Sundays. The Ahmanson Theatre is located at the Music Center, 135 N. Grand Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90012. Tickets range from $35 to $145. For information and reservations, call 213-972-4400 or go online.