Folks disappointed when COVID-19 cancelled the Australian production of the West End hit Everybody’s Talking About Jamie can at least get a sense of it through this new musical movie.
Based on a true story, it introduces us to Sheffield teenager Jamie New (Max Harwood), who is openly gay and comfortably camp at school but has a secret he’s nervous about revealing – that he wants to become a professional drag queen.
This ambition is encouraged by his doting mother (Sarah Lancashire), discouraged by his practically-minded careers teacher (Sharon Horgan), and then encouraged again by a local drag veteran (Richard E. Grant), who runs a vintage dress shop in town. Jamie is also encouraged by his swotty Muslim feminist classmate Pritti (Lauren Patel), who provides both level head and comic relief. (“Oh my days! You’re like Emmeline Pankhurst,” Pritti tells Jamie at one point. “Who’s she?” Jamie asks. “She were like Beyonce back in the day,” Pritti explains. “Shut up!” Jamie says, accepting the compliment without further enquiry.)
All the ingredients are there, but the mix comes out lumpy. The main problem is that the songs aren’t that good, or even that convincing in the context. There’s nothing as rousing and memorable as the tunes from Hair, for instance, or as cleverly satirical as you’d find in any episode of Schmigadoon! or Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. And would Jamie performing drag at a local club really send a whole form of today’s 16-year-olds into a song-and-dance number about what a wild and confusing concept that is?