Last week I woke to what has become an everyday routine; laying in bed checking social media. While scrolling through my Instagram feed, I saw the vibrant and eye-catching celebrations of the return of Everybody's Talking About Jamie to the London West End.
As I lie there, eyes still groggy, a pang of envy set in. You know FOMO is real. Even worse for someone who loves to travel and has been grounded because of the pandemic. Most of the accounts I follow are from around the world, and I get my daily dose every morning of watching all the life happening, seemingly everywhere but here.
When I saw this post about the return of Everybody's Talking About Jamie, my heart skipped a beat. I immediately was taken back to a crisp day in London when I stood in line with a coffee in hand and purchased my ticket to see the fun and flashy musical up close (front row, to be exact). I didn't know what I was in for, but luckily my dear friend brought me along for the ride.
We went to the matinee that afternoon, and as I laid in bed, I remembered what I felt in the theatre that day. A sort of electricity pulsing through me and everyone at once as we sat in our seats. Do you know the feeling? When theatre is just that good.
The story centers on Jamie New, a teenage boy in a small town in Northern England. It follows his harrowing journey in high school, dealing with bullies and simultaneously finding a way to accept and embrace his sexuality and dream to become a drag queen.
Based on the True Story of Jamie Campbell
The musical is based on the real-life story of Jamie Campbell. The story itself differs slightly from the musical. However, the crux of it remains the same. When Jamie Campbell was a young boy growing up in Northern England, he faced bullies and disapproval from his father for being too "girly."
He came out as gay at age 14 to a town that didn't want to accept him. With an ally in his mom, he decided to go to prom the way he wanted - wearing a dress instead of a tux.
Jamie made a bold decision, especially for a small town in Northern England in the early 2000s. He invited a film crew to accompany him, as he thought it would discourage fellow students from harming him. The footage led to the BBC documentary Jamie: Drag Queen at 16 - and was ultimately the inspiration for Everybody's Talking About Jamie the musical.
Self-Acceptance Amidst Resistance
The lively and catchy tunes in this show layer on a deeply moving message - one that packs a punch. Let's all remember a time when we were young teens in high school. The challenge to fit in, find your tribe and come into your own. For some, this search continues well into adulthood.
Jamie taps into this inner wound and gives it new life. Even as you relate to his struggle and pain, his story inspires you to believe in yourself. As he journeys to find his voice, you learn how to do the same. It's a vicarious experience, and one you might not have known you needed.
The story shows the importance of recognizing your support system, however small, and anchoring yourself there. His dream was to be a drag queen, and he made his dream become his reality.
The lyrics of the dynamic song You Don't Even Know It ring in my headphones as I still laid in bed, recalling that afternoon.
"There's a path I've planned (and you don't even know it)
To the promised land (and you don't even know it)
And you won't understand (and you don't even know it)
'Cause you're my backing band (and you don't even know it)
... I've got the dreams, I've got the style
I've got the moves to make you smile
So kiss my ass goodbye
'Cause I'm gonna be the one"
It isn't just a great song; it's an anthem—a reminder to you and me to dare to dream - and keep that dream alive. It gets you on your feet and ready for anything.
Everybody's Talking About Jamie
The West End musical opened in London in February 2017 to rave reviews. The original cast featured John McCrea in the title role and has since welcomed its second Jamie, played by Noah Thomas. It's run is going strong in the London West End at The Apollo Theatre. The joyous celebration has also found itself on the big screen, with the film adaptation set for a 2021 release.
The bitter in this sweet article is while I write this, the London theatre community is no longer celebrating Jamie's return. Covid-19 spikes have caused London to go into Tier 4 restrictions - this means shows are halted once again in London. Until the theatre community can thrive again, here's some motivation for your inner artist.
Better Days Ahead
In some ways, the pandemic has felt like we've all hit a wall. You know that feeling of being stuck, held back, just waiting to reach the light at the end of the tunnel--
The theatre community worldwide has been hit hard during the 2020 pandemic, and all of us here at Katharsis wish you to remember to keep your dreams alive, anchor in love and believe there are better and brighter days to come.
In the words of Jamie in his moving and poignant song Wall in My Head --
"over the wall, over the wall, I see my future standing tall… over the wall, over the wall, I can believe I'd have it all."
Keep your eye on the prize, friends. Stay strong, and if you're planning a trip to London - seeing Everybody's Talking About Jamie is a MUST. For now, get up on your feet and shuffle the soundtrack on Spotify or Youtube.
This article is the first for Theatre Around The World - where I will highlight shows and theatre communities around the globe.
Have you seen Everybody’s Talking About Jamie yet? Are you planning a trip to London? I would love to know - comment below.
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