Stepping out into the rainy August delights of Shaftesbury Avenue our faces are aching from grinning whilst our inner diva poses are a mere moment away. This Olivier nominated show has been running for almost three years in the west end and doesn’t show any sign of slowing down. Set in Sheffield, in a classroom of kids that my teacher friend assures me sound a lot like year 11’s up and down the country; obsessed with sex, looks and full of excitement for the end of school prom.
“What do you want to be, Jamie?” When this question is poised by Jamie’s teacher, dauntlessly played by the indomitable Rita Simons, we see our hero’s first daydream into the spellbinding desire to be the most awe-inspiring and fabulous drag queen Sheffield has ever seen. Based on a real life determined Jamie who, as a fifteen year old schoolboy contacted numerous documentary film-makers to film his story as a boy with a big secret ambition: to be a drag queen and wear a dress to the school prom. Soon ‘Drag Queen at 16’ was born on BBC3.
There are new shoes and a terrific new cast and they’re an incredible ensemble. There are so many gutsy, energy-packed and vibrant performances, each with the capacity to fill your heart with joy. The class of Mayfield school are punchy, unflagging and very funny. So much so that now and again I’m disappointed to miss some of their hilarious lyrics. Layton Williams is spectacular in the title role. With so many self-assured diva poses, instagramable pouts and a high kick that puts your eyes out on stalks, he totally draws the focus in every scene. Another stand out performance is by the beguiling Rebecca McKinnis as Margaret New, Jamies mum and who has the most beautiful tone to her voice, reminiscent of Karen Carpenter, with the powerful emotional depth to make your heart melt. Her love and support for her son is truly wonderful and McKinnis has the whole theatre captivated.
Jamie has another big fan in his best friend Pritti, gloriously played by Sabrina Sandhu in her west end debut role. With a searing, powerful vocal performance Sandhu shines brightly as Jamie’s diligent and loving rock. Everybody needs a Pritti in their lives!
The set on the surface is seemingly simple but the intricate transformations are impressive. With a talented young cast and every song an instant hit, the show encapsulates the spirit of accepting yourself and following your dreams. You can’t help but be inspired and swept away with a buzzing joy and the cast fully deserve their standing ovation. Out of the darkness and into the spotlight.
Written by: Dan Gillespie Sells and Tom Macrae
Based on an idea by: Jonathan Butterell
Directed by: Jonathan Butterell
Produced by: Nica Burns
Box office: 0330 333 4809
Booking link: https://ticketmaster-uk.tm7559.net/zZMrm