Jamie New, a gay teen, prepares for his drag debut in Everybody’s Talking About Jamie. This joyous musical was adapted from a 2017 stage show and a 2011 documentary. On stage I found it fun but repetitive. The film trims some fat without compromising the protagonist’s arc. The talented Max Harwood plays Jamie as a boy whose sharp tongue masks insecurity. He finds it hard to stand up to bullies without becoming one himself. He’s allowed to be both cruel and sweet along the journey.
What he’s not allowed is romance. This will be a bug for some and a feature for others. His time is spent with his drag mom (Richard E. Grant), his female friend (Lauren Patel) and his mother (Sarah Lancashire). The first two exist to provide pep talks and inspirational songs. Mom’s plot is thornier. She’s forging cards from her ex-husband (Ralph Ineson) to hide the fact that he’s disowned his son. This adds some emotional stakes to the simple story.
Director Jonathan Butterell cleverly stages the musical numbers. A classroom transforms into a catwalk. A villain song becomes a pop art fantasy. A new anthem on drag history takes a trip through a VHS cassette. Jamie’s imagination is a fun place to visit.
There are issues. The ballads are generic. The bullies are paper tigers. The drag artists are predominately white and cis. Why does Jamie know so little about makeup when YouTube exists? But the strong cast smooths over the rough patches. After the disappointment of The Prom, it’s nice to see a musical give a queer teen agency.