Rebecca McKinnis interview – ‘Everybody’s Talking about Jamie has something everyone can relate to’
Everybody’s Talking About Jamie has been stomping its high heels with pride at the Apollo Theatre since 2017. The musical follows the story of Jamie New, a 16-year-old from Sheffield who doesn’t quite fit in. The musical was conceived from the 2011 BBC Three documentary “Jamie: Drag Queen at 16” where Jamie navigates friends, bullies and bigoted views to make his mark at the school prom.
We chatted with Rebecca McKinnis, who has recently taken over the role of Jamie’s mother Margaret New.
Interview with Rebecca McKinnis
For people that have never seen it before, how would you sum up the plot in a couple of sentences?
Everybody’s Talking About Jamie follows Jamie’s journey of being brave enough to follow his dream and go to his school prom, defying all beliefs and turning up at the prom in a dress. Jamie wants to be a drag queen and his mum is fully behind him.
Do you think the musical is relevant for today?
It’s so relevant, it’s fantastic! The heart of the show is the relationship between Jamie’s mum and Jamie. When Margaret’s there for him, he feels brave enough to do what he wants to do.
So would you say the relationship is the main reason why people enjoy the story then?
It is the main crux of the show. I think you come out feeling that love is at the core of the show. The mother and son relationship is the centre of the piece and driving force of what happens around Jamie. His mum is the constant in his life.
How does Everybody’s Talking About Jamie differ to other shows you’ve appeared in?
The score has lots of different genres and amazing ballads, as well as great up-tempo numbers. Dan Gillespie Sells (principal songwriter from the band The Feeling) is a genius! When I heard the songs for the first time, I thought they were amazing!
The script has so much heart but is hilariously funny. It’s side-splitting one moment and then you’re crying your eyes out. There’s something everyone can relate to.
Do you think the show brings drag queens to a new audience?
Definitely! It’s not stereotypical to have drag queens in a show. The element of a drag queen is light-hearted and the show peeks into their kind of world.
Would you have had any stories like this at school?
Not at all! But it’s so important to tell the story now as kids at school now are so much more open and accepting. Most of the kids in the audience are behind Jamie. There’s only one or two who don’t really like what he’s doing. Kids today are more likely to think “anything goes” and be who they want to be. Older people come and watch and they’re behind it too, because Jamie’s so lovable and so brave.
Do you have cult fans?
We’ve been open a year and we’ve developed a massive fanbase. Fan groups and audience members will watch it time and time again. Everybody’s Talking About Jamie started in Sheffield and only did 13 performances. Lots of people who were fans in Sheffield have come to see it in London!
What songs are really catchy?
“And You Don’t Even Know It” and “Everybody’s Talking about Jamie” for sure! They open Act 1 and 2 and they’re both feel good songs, but all the songs are so catchy and there’s no song that sounds like any other song out there.
The show is based on a true story, has the real Jamie been to see it?
Yes, he loves it! Jamie (Campbell) was there a lot in rehearsals with his mum and is happy the story is being told too. When they came to see it in Sheffield, they were both very emotional.
What’s the biggest message to take away from the show?
Be brave, stand by who you want to be. Go for it and don’t be afraid to be who you are. There’s a quote in the show that says “Stop waiting for permission to be you” which just sums it up lovely. This message speaks to old and young, just do what you want to do and be brave and take steps.
There’s a reason why audiences are leaving so happy and wanting to see it time and time again. It’s great to be part of a show like this and it’s a home-grown show with a home-grown story.