With over 1,000 sold out shows on London’s West End, the LGBTQ hit musical Everybody’s Talking About Jamie has officially made its way across the pond.
Playing at the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles through February 20, the show tells the story of a teenager who dreams of becoming a drag queen, but he is stuck in conservative Sheffield. Therefore, he must rely on the support of his mother and friends to rise above the obstacles in life and realize his full potential. Inspired by the documentary Jamie: Drag Queen at 16, British screenwriter and lyricist Tom MacRae created a roaring success.
Additionally, a new cinematic adaptation is now available to stream on Amazon Prime.
MacRae has become the latest personality to join the ranks of Ryan Murphy, Steven Canals, and Greg Berlanti in telling LGBTQ stories with a dash of camp and a whole lot of heart. One of the only creators to adapt his own source material from stage to screen, MacRae is entirely self-taught in screenwriting, playwrighting, and scripting for television. He was nominated for a BAFTA early in his career for writing the TV movie Off Limits: School’s Out, and he notably worked as a writer for the cult hit TV series Doctor Who.
Currently, MacRae is adapting the Beetle Boy children’s books for the cinema.
Instinct caught up with the creative genius to talk more about Everybody’s Talking About Jamie and the impact it has made on theatre and the LGBTQ community.
Tom, thank you for taking some time to chat with us about Everybody’s Talking About Jamie! How excited are you for the show to make its U.S. debut in Los Angeles?
I was out in West Hollywood last weekend and saw lots of posters around with our names and Layton Williams’ face. He plays Jamie, and it is very exciting. I’ve lived in L.A. for quite a long time now, so to bring this show to my new hometown is magical.
The musical is inspired by the 2011 British television documentary Jamie: Drag Queen at 16. What made you want to adapt Everybody’s Talking About Jamie for the stage, does the story have any similarities to your own life?
The documentary was originally seen by Jonathan Butterell, our director, and he had the idea that it would be a great musical. He then found me and Dan Gillespie Sells, our composer, to kind of bring it to life, and the three of us have been doing every version of Jamie, from the stage show to the global releases, ever since. Johnny thought that it was a story that sang, and that’s really what you look for. There’s no one way of a story singing, but when you watch a show and go, ‘Oh, that’s a song there,’ you see how that can work and you have to push it. Then you can tell when it’s there, and it just sang. When we watched the documentary, Dan and I were instantly convinced that there’s a song here, there’s a song there. We could just see it. It was all from the heart.
At the time, it was just an instinct, and we just love the story. We love the character so much. When I first met the real Margaret for the first time, I was genuinely starstruck. Jamie as well, although we knew a bit by then Margaret was kind of the last person that we met from the real world. Then in terms of my own life, I grew up in a little village near Northampton, which is a small town. Smaller than what you’re imagining, and Jamie is kind of from a similar community. Mine was more southern than his, but in terms of the parental support, my parents were greatly supportive in everything I wanted to do. Jamie’s dad is a thorn in his side, and my dad isn’t at all. He’s the biggest Jamie fan there is. He’s even got a cameo in the movie playing an elderly gay rights protester in a flashback, which was a very special day for us all.
So, it’s not really very much like me at all. The only bit in it that’s really me is when Pritti Pasha, Jamie’s best friend, has this speech at the end. There are only two speeches in the show. I try not to write speeches because people don’t really talk in speeches. I’m very strict. Writers love writing speeches, but I think audiences don’t always enjoy listening to them. So, there’s only two, and the second one is when Pritti takes down the bully, and everything she says is what is what I wish I was brave, clever, and funny enough to have said while I was her age. Other than that, it was all about connecting with Jamie’s world.
Are you surprised by how big of a success both the stage production and film has been?
Yeah! I mean, it’s crazy, right? This is just me and my friends, and we did this little show that had a two and a half week run in Sheffield in 2017. That was it, and then everything happened. Everything I do, I think this is the one that’s going to be huge because you have to kind of believe that when you’re writing it, but then it never is. With this, it happened. We all sort of had that daydream, but none of us really thought this would happen. We are continually surprised and delighted.
Any plans to take Everybody’s Talking About Jamie to Broadway?
That’s been our dream for a long time, and if Jamie’s taught me anything, it’s that no dream is impossible! I would love for it to go to Broadway, but it all depends on how it does in L.A., and obviously, with COVID. It probably won’t be anytime soon, but if you want to come out and watch it and cheer as loud as you can, then in the end, Broadway will hear. That’s what happened with our two and a half weeks in Sheffield. We were the biggest thing to happen to that theatre in 10 years. It went insane. It was like a rock concert every night, and when people love something that much, London sits up and takes notice.
Watch the full interview below…
Stay up-to-date and connect with MacRae by following him on Twitter and Instagram. Click HERE for more information and to purchase tickets for Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, playing at the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles through February 20.