Skip to main content Skip to footer site map

BWW Review: EVERYBODY'S TALKING ABOUT JAMIE at The Ahmanson Theatre

The Hit Musical For Today

BWW Review: EVERYBODY'S TALKING ABOUT JAMIE at The Ahmanson Theatre

"It was just what we needed!"

The audience response was joyous. Indeed, that was the very vocal sentiment of so many in the crowd after a triumphant opening night at the Ahmanson Theatre downtown Los Angeles where EVERYBODY'S TALKING ABOUT JAMIE, The Hit Musical For Today, made its North American premiere this past Saturday evening.

A Sheffield Theatres Production written by Dan Gillespie Sells and Tom MacRae from an idea by (also) Director Jonathan Butterfield, this UK musical stars Layton Williams reprising his role as Jamie New, Melissa Jacques as Margaret New, his mom, Shobna Gulati as Ray, and Roy Haylock (aka Bianca Del Rio) also reprising his role.

EVERYBODY'S TALKING ABOUT JAMIE is a coming-of-age story based upon the true life of a 16-year-old British schoolboy as he overcomes prejudice and bullying to step out of the shadows and become a drag queen. The musical itself was inspired by the 2011 British television documentary JAMIE: DRAG QUEEN AT 16 directed by Jenny Popplewell about a boy who wanted to go to his school prom in a dress, then forbidden.

There are many critical points one could discourse upon with this production. The writing is clear but not always particularly compelling in and of itself. The musical score even-handed and nice although not explosive. And the choreography a satisfying sidebar to the production that fulfills youth culture taste. The set however is its most exciting aspect. The floor-to-ceiling illuminated and flashing panels really give that big-pop-concert feel and essentially the oomph that keeps the transitions from dragging. And you simply cannot beat the acting. All the performers perfectly glide through the dialogs and situations. The ease of the ensemble work is so natural it's almost not even noticeable with Hiba Elchikhe as Pritti Pasha, giving a particularly beautiful performance as Jamie's best friend. It really is a "day-in-the-life..."

And then there is the subject matter. Cross-dressing has been "out" for some time now thanks in no small part to a host of drag entertainers and their fans of whom iconic performer, television personality, and LGBTQ pioneer RuPaul is the most overall culturally recognized for breaking ground into the mainstream with his song "Supermodel (You Better Work)" and who then fully brought audiences around with his hit television series RUPAUL'S DRAG RACE. But seeing this story on a grand theater stage like the Ahmanson really nails one big point. It's not just become accepted. It's become "normal."

Although the material resonates with a slightly older time period, the teen drama really does put an exclamation point on today's teenage experience. And that is as powerful a message someone can hold who is looking for mentors and icons to normalize their own personas as they navigate through the identity culture politics of 2022. Because Jamie being a boy who sometimes likes to dress like a girl isn't just about being fabulous. Although his story here certainly has its own special Cinderella ending. And it's most definitely not about pushing the envelope or outrage about the lack of acceptance in society. In fact, there's nothing about this story that is "hyper-reality." These are very ordinary people living very ordinary lives. It's about true unconditional love. Loving oneself enough to own who you are and loving people when they want something different than you do or want for them. And that takes patience, open eyes, sometimes sacrifice, as Jamie's mother attests in a singularly outstanding musical solo.

The performance moves along quite easily. It is digestible and incredibly empathetic and puts the relationship between Jamie and his mother at its center. Which is what the Ahmanson audience most responded to throughout the evening. And, although quite archetypally portrayed, Jamie's parents reflect not just their own points of view but those of the zeitgeist - understanding and not so understanding people that Jamie butts up against: their anger, fears, hopes, hostilities, agape, and ultimately the capability to overcome their prejudices. And that overall might make this one of the more important theater productions for people of all ages and differences of all kinds in Los Angeles to experience this season.

It's a beautiful story to which in some way or other we all can relate.

Highly Recommended

Opens Friday, January 21 at 8 p.m. Through February 20, 2022

Center Theatre Group/Ahmanson Theatre Performance Days and Times:

• Tuesday through Friday at 8 p.m.

• Saturday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.

• Sunday at 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.

• No Monday performances

• Exceptions: None

Run Time and Intermission: 2 hours and 40 minutes including one intermission

Ticket Prices: $35 - $145 (Ticket prices are subject to change.)

Tickets are available online at www.CenterTheatreGroup.org https://www.centertheatregroup.org/

Or by calling Center Theatre Group Audience Services at 213.972.4400

Or in person at the Center Theatre Group Box Office at The Music Center

Group Sales: 213.972.7231

Deaf community information and charge: visit CenterTheatreGroup.org/ACCESS

https://www.centertheatregroup.org/programs/audiences/see-theatre/access/

Center Theatre Group/Ahmanson Theatre At The Music Center, 135 N. Grand Avenue in Downtown L.A. 90012

HEALTH & SAFETY

All guests must wear a mask and provide proof of full vaccination, along with a government or education-issued photo ID upon arrival. Per the guidelines set by the CDC, "full vaccination" means that at least 14 days have passed since receiving the final dose of an FDA-authorized or WHO-listed COVID-19 vaccine. Booster shots are highly recommended and will be required February 1 for anyone who is eligible. Unvaccinated guests, including children or those with a medical or religious reason, must provide proof of a negative PCR COVID-19 test taken no more than 48 hours prior to attending an indoor performance, or a negative rapid antigen test taken no more than 24 hours prior to attending an indoor performance. Learn more at CTGLA.org/Safety.*



Related Articles View More Los Angeles Stories


From This Author - Tracey Paleo