Perfect for Pride Month: ‘Everybody’s Talking About Jamie’ at Iron Crow

A 16-year-old British schoolboy dreams of becoming a professional drag queen, and the multi-talented Bradley Adam Stein is riveting in the role.

In a feat of programming, Artistic Director Sean Elias brings the musical Everybody’s Talking About Jamie to Iron Crow Theatre in one of its first productions in North America since the UK premiere in 2017. It’s a perfect choice in both story and scope for the closer of their “Season of the Unorthodox,” and an achievement to secure the production rights to something so fresh, inventive, and underproduced — just in time for Pride Month.

Bradley Adam Stein (center, as Jamie) with Allison Farrall, Brooke Donald, Adrian Graham-Chesnavage, Kiley Ernest, Dean Whitfield, Isabelle Pickering, Courtney Simmons, Asia-Ligé Arnold, Nicholas Miles, Garrett Matthews, Jake Stibbe, Garrett Matthews, Liz Gutridge, Whitney Chantél, and Mateen Kane in ‘Everybody’s Talking About Jamie.’ Photo by Wilson Freeman.

The compelling story, lively music, and raucously fun moments of the first act in particular had me wondering why I hadn’t seen Everybody’s Talking About Jamie on every regional theater’s season since it premiered. But Act Two revealed some structural flaws with overwriting and a couple songs that missed the mark, dragging its feet into a finale at around three hours for what could have surely been accomplished in two. Additionally, significant technical issues undermined stellar cast performances, compounding momentum issues and muddying important plot points.

The story revolves around Jamie New, a 16-year-old British schoolboy who has a dream for his future that his careers teacher can’t get behind: professional drag queen. Supported enormously by his best friend and mom, Jamie finds the courage to fight through fierce rejection from others in his life to claim his new identity and begin his career. His journey would not be possible without the tutelage of a legendary drag queen he meets along the way, who is responsible not only for guiding Jamie but for legitimizing drag as a rigorous professional pursuit. Despite the significant overwriting of the second act, the punchy book and lyrics by Tom Macrae combine with sticky, upbeat music by Dan Gillespie Sells to ensure that this is a story you’ll be remembering and singing along to for the whole week after you see it.

The scenic design by Chris Miller and lighting design by Thomas P. Gardner worked in concert to reflect the tension between Jamie’s dreams and his reality. School desks made up the majority of the set and were manipulated by the cast to build new locations with each scene change. The constant presence of the pressure of school, his careers teacher’s expectations, and the judgment of his peers likewise pervaded every area of Jamie’s life. Simultaneously, an electric arrangement of LED lighting hung suspended over the set for the entirety of the show, making a daydream sequence or catwalk-like strobe lighting only a spark away.

As clever as this dynamic was (especially on a limited budget) I could not escape the sense that the musical was designed for a theater that had lots of fly space or a rotating stage to drop in new sets in the blink of an eye; the sheer number of location changes sometimes left the actors destination-less, with only a few school desks meant to represent an entire kitchen or bedroom.

Likewise, the costumes (designed by J. Ethan Henry) delivered fantastically, but to an extent. The drag was impressive and delicious to look at, the school uniforms were realistic and professional, but some moments dictated by the score indicated a quick change or reveal that didn’t seem possible without doubling or serious costume tech.

LEFT: Bradley Adam Stein and Hana Clarice; TOP RIGHT: Bradley Adam Stein and Nicholas Miles; ABOVE RIGHT: Bradley Adam Stein and Courtney Simmons, in ‘Everybody’s Talking About Jamie.’ Photos by Wilson Freeman. LEFT: Bradley Adam Stein and Hana Clarice; TOP RIGHT: Bradley Adam Stein and Nicholas Miles; ABOVE RIGHT: Bradley Adam Stein and Courtney Simmons, in ‘Everybody’s Talking About Jamie.’ Photos by Wilson Freeman.

In regards to performance, everybody’s talking about him and for good reason: Jamie, a complex and demanding role, was carried confidently by multitalented Bradley Adam Stein. Their voice and movement were riveting, managing to demand and hold attention amid full, flashy ensemble numbers with an athletic stamina worthy of admiration. They also brought the acting focus required to stand up to more than a few ballads, turning what could have been a park-and-bark into a meaningful story piece.

Stein was backed by an ensemble who gave it their all, delivering exceptional vocals, thrillingly precise choreography by Arthur Cuadros, and a phenomenal amount of energy. The opening group number hit like a showstopper, leaving me delighted and eager for more. Sadly, malfunctioning microphones (a recurring issue for Iron Crow) drowned out some solos in big group numbers as the night wore on, leading me to miss not only their talent but also their dialogue and story advancement at key moments, such as the opening (and titular) number of the second act.

The cast had two additional standouts, the first of which was Courtney Simmons in her portrayal of Jamie’s best friend, Pritti. Simmons had a dynamic and joyful stage presence and an exuberant delivery of choreography that always drew my eye. Her sincere and earnest performance fulfilled one of the best-written story arcs of the evening, with highly believable best-friend chemistry with Stein as Jamie. It was a shame to miss some of her solo singing moments due to microphone malfunctioning and sound-balancing issues.

Nicholas Miles, a resident artist with Iron Crow, delivered the most grounded, skillful performance of the night as Hugo, the shopkeeper who once performed as the legendary drag artist Loco Channel. Anytime a technical issue or story lull caused a hiccup, Miles brought the audience right back into the story with his charisma and confidence. His character, Hugo, had the hugely important task of bringing the depth, power, and rigor of the drag profession to light for the audience and for Jamie, and Miles knocked it out of the park. His embodiment of Loco Channel was fierce and commanding, and Loco exuded powerful charm each time she was onstage.

Despite so much to cheer about, the second half of the show could not structurally stand up to the first. A pattern of solo ballads with not much distinction left me wishing for a multi-character song, slowed down the pace, and even felt off-brand for the style of music. This was most glaring with a song for Jamie’s Mom (played with heart and dedication by Hana Clarice) called “He’s My Boy” and a quick callback/reprise in “My Man, Your Boy,” which landed more like a cathartic writing process for the show’s creators than an airtight story arc. The repeating of plot points and discoveries for Jamie about his relationship with his father, about his beauty and power, and even a whole repeat scene of a bully takedown (but with Pritti rather than Jamie) stole some of the umph from the final moments of the play, making me wish for some cuts or simple rewrites. The cast needed to attack their dialogue with less air between lines and a clearer sense of objective to keep the sagging moments at the end afloat.

The passionate and talented cast combined with the importance of the story make this a performance you should absolutely go see. It’s rare to see a newer musical, and a treat to have that chance in Baltimore. But having seen one other show at Iron Crow that was equally excellent but likewise marred by sound issues, it’s possible the company has reached a point where their ambition and worth are unfairly limited by budget constraints; a new sound system and slightly larger backstage space would have significantly improved the evening.

Running Time: Approximately three hours, including a 15-minute intermission.

Everybody’s Talking About Jamie plays through June 30, 2024, presented by Iron Crow Theatre performing at Baltimore Theatre Project; 45 W. Preston Street, Baltimore, MD. Tickets are $20–$65 (with a ticket lottery for $20; rear orchestra, $40; front orchestra, $50, VIP, $65) and may be purchased online.

The cast and creative team credits are here.

Everybody’s Talking About Jamie

Book & Lyrics by Tom Macrae
Music by Dan Gillespie Sells
From an Idea by Jonathan Butterell

Direction by Sean Elias, Choreography by Arthur Cuadros, Music Direction and Assistant Direction by Allison Bradbury

Lighting Design by Thomas P. Gardner; Set Design by Chris Miller; Costume Design by J. Ethan Henry; Sound Design by Thom J. Woodward; Intimacy Direction by Shawna Potter; Drag Consulting by Devon Vaow

Jamie New – Bradley Adam Stein
Margaret New – Hana Clarice
Pritti – Courtney Simmons
Hugo/Loco Channel – Nicholas Miles
Ray – Asia-Ligé Arnold
Miss Hedge – Isabelle Pickering
Dean/Jamie’s Dad – Jake Stibbe
Becca – Whitney Chantèl
Bex – Kiley Ernest
Fatimah – Allison Farrall
Vicki – Liz Gutridge
Mickey – Brooke Donald
Sayid – Michael Christopher
Cy – Mateen Kane
Levi – Adrian Graham-Chesnavage
Laika Virgin – Garrett Matthews
Tray Sophisticay – Stephen A. Foreman
Sandra Bollock – Dean Whitfield


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