Jamie is 16 and is not like his friends at school. His best friend wants to be a doctor, but he wants to be a drag queen. Raised by his mum in a single-parent family on one of Sheffield’s tougher estates, Jamie finds himself, and his alter ego, Mimi Me, with the help of fading drag queen, Hugo, and with the support of his ever doting mother and her best friend. But Jamie’s difficult relationship with his dad dents Jamie’s confidence; and the school aren’t particularly enthused about the big question on everyone’s lips – namely, whether Jamie will go to the school prom, or whether Mimi Me will.
The West End smash is venturing out on a national tour, and starting its 20 venue run at its spiritual home of Sheffield Theatres. For a touring production, the presentation of the show is spot on, with a simple but versatile set and a slick and polished look and feel, as it heads out with a broadly fresh cast.
Leyton Williams (Bad Education) reprises his West End role as Jamie, and whilst his vocals were not the strongest, his portrayal of Jamie was deliciously delightful. Amy Ellen Richardson absolutely nails her two show-stopping numbers as Margaret, Jamie’s mother; and George Sampson (Britain’s Got Talent) is impressive as Dean, the school bully. But it was Shane Richie who proved to be the biggest surprise of the night, balancing a measured performance as Hugo with a flamboyant turn as Loco Chanelle, his drag alter ego.
The strength of the show lies not just in the performances, but in the excellent writing and the superb score. Beautifully blending comedy and emotion, the story is one which easily balances the comedy with genuine feeling. ‘He’s My Boy‘ is nothing short of a torch song, and the more tender moments between Jamie and his Mother nestle beautifully in the feel-good warmth of the sharp script. But there is also tremendous pop bubble-gum fun to be had with many of the musical numbers, and the choreography, characterisations and ensemble cast bring both the stage and the characters to life.
The show doesn’t re-tread the usual ground with someone struggling with their sexuality, nor about seeking acceptance from their peers. Jamie is out, proud and everyone in his life loves him, which provides a refreshing change to coming of age stories such as these. The struggle is with Jamie’s self-image and his self-belief; and of the impact of his absent and rejecting father; and is very much a story about what makes a family rather than focusing on the acceptance or otherwise of Jamie’s sexuality.
The new touring production for 2020 brings with it a vivacious burst of energy and the show remains as utterly joyful and triumphant as ever. I laughed, I cried and I cheered on multiple occasions over the show’s duration, and if you’ve not been able to catch the show in the West End, then the national tour is bringing Jamie to a theatre near you. Move aside, Blood Brothers, there’s a new standing ovation musical in town.