The amazing real story of a teenage drag queen has inspired a new musical that gets its world premiere at the Crucible in February.
Everybody’s Talking About Jamie is the result of a collaboration between Dan Gillespie Sells, the lead singer-songwriter of pop band The Feeling, writer Tom MacRae and Sheffield-born director Jonathan Butterell.
We wanted to bring this show to the community I grew up in
The show is described as a coming of age story with a twist.
Tom said: “It’s based on a BBC documentary on a lad called Jamie, who became a drag queen at 16.
“He wanted to go to his school prom in a dress.
“He is the one who initiated the documentary. He asked the film crew, ‘will you follow me around’?”
Dan added: “He said, ‘If I’ve got cameras with me, other kids won’t beat me up’.”
Tom said: “There was a beautiful relationship between him and his mum,” adding that she tried really hard to encourage him to do what he wanted.
Jonathan said: “It’s tough love. The moment he gives up and says ‘I’m not going’, she says, ‘you are’.”
He added: “I saw the documentary. I’d been working in New York for 10 years and met Daniel Evans (the former Sheffield Theatres artistic director).
“He was asking about projects I was interested in doing and I said I’d like to do something new and make a great musical.
“It was amazing and brave of Sheffield Theatres to commission a piece. It’s a big risk for an organisation.”
Tom, a TV screenwriter, and Dan wanted to work on a musical together and mutual friends put them in touch with Jonathan, who was also looking for a writer. The trio have put in two to three years of hard work bringing the project together.
Dan said: “I felt my music lent itself to musical theatre.
“I’d been told that by people when they heard my songs. They are quite theatrical.
“There was a nugget of something in my brain that grew to a real urge to do a musical.
“I bumped into Tom, who I’d met at a political rally many years ago. We thought, ‘why don’t we do this’?”
Tom said: “It has been the most fun professionally I’ve ever had. We get to hang out and it’s such a laugh, working and not working!”
While they were developing the show, the trio spent some time working with students at Rotherham College, Clifton School in Rotherham and Firth Park Academy in Sheffield.
Park Hill-born Jonathan said: “We wanted to bring this show to Sheffield to the community I grew up in. We set it in Firth Park and Parson Cross.”
Dan added: “The kids we met aren’t confident to express themselves in any way. They are self-conscious.
“When we go in and ask them how do they feel about this stuff, it’s complex for them.
“Some of them would struggle with having Jamie in their school.”
He added: “At its heart, it’s everyone’s dilemma - ‘who do I want to be? I’m not a kid and not an adult.
“What happens next after school?’
“You’re looking at your parents, thinking, ‘you’re just people and just as flawed as me’.”
“It’s a story for everyone,” he concluded.
Everybody’s Talking about Jamie, Crucible Theatre
February 9 to 25