The Guardian joined the chorus of rave reviews for Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, the adaptation of a true story about a boy’s dream to go to prom in drag.
BBC Three first brought Jamie Campbell’s story to Britain’s television in 2011 in the documentary Jamie: Drag Queen at 16. The doc followed Campbell’s crusade to dance the house down at prom as his drag alter ego, Fifi La True.
The young Campbell always knew he was different, admitting, “I was just naturally flamboyant,” but it was his incredibly supportive mother who encouraged him to be himself and ignore the bullying, “You’re different, so what? They’re the one who are idiots, not you.” After Jamie complained that girls got to wear fabulous dresses to prom, his mother suggested, “Why don’t you go to prom in a dress?” The teen made the decision in that moment, “I’m gonna do it!”
With amazing foresight, Jamie found a documentary crew that would follow along, offering the camera’s protection and capturing his transformation into Fifi. Along the way, Jamie took on bigoted parents who fought this “disgusting” plan, being turned away at dress shops and mastering his make-up skills. Prom was dramatic and almost resulted in a failed night for Fifi’s debut until students and parents faced off against teachers, demanding that Campbell be allowed into prom. Fifi was astonished by the support and triumphantly danced all night in his lacy, black dress, calling it “A magical moment.”
Director Jonathan Butterell took Fifi’s fierce story all the way to the West End as a musical, giving Londoners a feel-good story being billed as ‘Billy Elliot for today’s generation.’ The entire cast has been lauded for their performances, including Josie Walker, as Jamie’s mum, who delivers the tear-jerking, soulful number “He’s My Boy.” John McCrea who turns out a ‘beguiling’ and ‘silvery-voiced’ portrayal as Jamie/Fifi won for Best Performance in a Musical at the UK Theatre Awards, which also honored the show as Best Musical.
Now 22, Jamie Campbell is stunned by the success of his story, reflects on the confidence and shield that drag provided him and that he believes that “drag is basically art, with drag queens as walking canvases.” On the success of the musical, Campbell feels that his drags to riches story resonates with so many because, “Not everybody is going to go to prom in drag. But, people want to be respected for who they are.”
Everybody’s Talking About Jamie could very likely follow in Billy Elliot’s fancy footwork all the way to Broadway, then Hollywood.