Words by Simon Button
The role of Miss Hedge in Everybody’s Talking About Jamie isn’t a huge one for Michelle Visage to take on. She raps on the ‘And You Don’t Even Know It’ opening number, dolls out advice about being fabulous on ‘Work Of Art’ towards the end of act one and has one big dramatic scene in act two.
But, making her West End acting debut, she fully throws herself into it with the same commitment she gives to her Drag Race judging and podcasting duties. Hailing from New Jersey and originally making a name for herself as a singer rather than as an actress, Michelle struggles a bit with the Yorkshire accent but she’s fully in-character as the school teacher who worries about wannabe drag queen Jamie’s wish to attend the prom in a dress.
Dampening dreams and noting that even the homophobic rants of certain parents have to be acknowledged must be hard for as fantastic an LGBTQ ally as Visage, but she shades Miss Hedge with enough layers to make it seem her heart is very much at war with her head.
The show itself remains the most vibrant and uplifting of anything currently running. I said it in my opening night review last November and it bears repeating: Jamie is a small-scale show that makes a massive noise as an 'I'm here, I'm queer' musical that speaks directly to today's LGBTQ youth in a way no other show ever has before.
Having joined the West End production mid-run, Rebecca McKinnis is heartbreakingly good as the mum who’ll do anything to shield her beloved son from bullies and bigots and Shobna Gulati is a masterclass in comic timing as her sassy best friend, as is Hugo Battersby as over-the-hill drag star Loco Chanelle.
John McCrea, meanwhile. has been playing Jamie since the original Sheffield production in 2017 and he’s still at the top of his game - very funny in his flamboyance and very touching in his baby-steps journey from drag queen ingenue to authentic true self.
The original ensemble continue to sparkle and shine as they sing and dance their hearts out, buoyed no doubt by having the legendary Miss Visage in their midst. With a va-va-voom figure drag queens would kill for, she’s fierce and fabulous and a bright new addition to the West End.
Casting directors take note: We’ve found your new Mama Morton and Madame Morrible.
Everybody’s Talking About Jamie is at the Apollo Theatre, London. For great deals on tickets and shows click here.