Leeds Grand Theatre – until 6 November 2021
Reviewed by Hayley Warters
This fabulous musical revolves around the struggle of a 16 year old boy who is faced with a fear of growing up and feeling confused where he fits in. The build up to the year 11 leavers’ prom demonstrates a variety of backgrounds, not just Jamie New wearing a dress for prom. It’s much more than that. This makes this production much more relatable for any audience member.
This true story, based on a 2011 documentary really does make you think of your own journeys through life. Especially through songs such as “Wall In My Head”, “If I Met Myself Again” and “He’s My Boy”. These beautiful songs have such a deeper meaning to anything I have ever heard of before. Maybe it’s thanks to Amy Ellen Richardson for her outstanding performance of Margaret, Jamie’s mum? Maybe it’s thanks to the composer and songwriter? Or both? Either way the tears start!
Putting the emotional blubbery to the side, I need to add how fabulous this production really is! The ensemble makes this musical much more relatable as it takes you back to how you felt when at school. The “it” girls, the “Nerd” who is genuinely a lovely person who is clearly going to do well in life! The one teacher who you struggle with. I remember the “Dean” in my class…. The ensemble brought Sheffield on stage, their accent was on point and their dance technique was floorless. We can’t forget Mr George Sampson of course when it comes to dancing. However, the ensemble did match him, which is what we want!
The cast was a perfect match with recognisable stars such as Shane Richie as Loco Chanelle. He really does pull off a dress! Shobna Gulati as Ray. Shobna brought hilarity and realism to this role. I’m sure we all have an Aunty Ray in the family. George Sampson as Dean and Layton Williams playing the role of Jamie. Layton was perfectly cast for this role. My expectations were to refer to his role from Bad Education; however , I’m so pleased he brought realism, sassiness and love to this character. The legs on him are fantastic!
Referring to Jamie’s journey to becoming a drag queen and attending prom, Layton Williams’ performance throughout is like a roller-coaster with lots of highs and lows. As much as the emotional value is strong throughout, the comedy value is constantly there which is a perfect amount to keep on track with the story. The set was minimal but very clever with use of tracks and school tables creating a lit up wall and projection to give a bit more detail to the setting of each scene. The lighting design gives this musical a much more vogue feel with its artistic ways, especially during “Don’t Even Know It” and “Work Of Art”.
The messages throughout, particularly acceptance, relationships within the family and growing up pull you into this musical which makes you forget you are watching something on stage. It has been an absolute joy to experience this musical as one of the firsts after returning to the theatre and what a pleasure to share this at Leeds Grand Theatre. Thanks for our “ice cream in a tiny tub, with a built in spoon” what a bonus!