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[Herald Review] ‘Jamie’ kicks out hate with red high heels

“Jamie” (Shownote)
“Jamie” (Shownote)

It is said that high heels were originally designed for men. Though they are more conventionally worn by women these days, the Korean-language musical “Jamie” blurs the line between men and women with a pair of bright red high heels.

The successful West End musical “Everybody’s Talking About Jamie” opened in Korea earlier this month under the name “Jamie.” It was the first time the show was staged outside the UK, and the first adaptation in a language other than English.

Produced by Dan Gillespie Sells (music) and Tom MacRae (lyrics), the show is inspired by the 2011 BBC documentary “Jamie: Drag Queen at 16.” Like the real-life Jamie Campbell, the musical’s Jamie New is a 16-year-old who dreams of becoming a drag queen.

The story begins when Jamie’s mother, Margaret, gives him a pair of red high heels for his birthday. Though he’s in love with the shoes, Jamie does not wear them outside the house, afraid people will make fun of him. When he shows the shoes to his friend Pritti, Pritti asks Jamie, “Do you want to be a girl?”

Jamie answers, “No. I want to be a drag queen.”

Though beset by prejudice and hate, Jamie fights for his dream, supported by friends and a loving mother. He shows up at the prom in a white dress, defying the school’s dress code.

The multiple-award-winning musical is often referred to as a musical with 21st-century sensibilities for reflecting the changing times. Unlike many other musicals, featuring damsels in distress and doomed love stories, “Jamie” is all about self-realization.

Though the musical is titled “Jamie,” it’s about more than just Jamie. It also shows the evolution of the other characters around him, and how everyone struggles with their egos.

Jamie’s best friend, Pritti, wears a hijab and is called names for her intelligence. Though shy in the beginning, she learns to speak up. Former drag queen Hugo tells Jamie that he had his struggles too, but eventually became the legendary drag queen Loco Chanelle.

Jamie’s mom, Margaret, who raised her son alone, is loving, caring and supportive. Though she sometimes wants to give up, she is always there for Jamie.

The show has numerous memorable numbers, such as “The Wall in My Head,” “Work of Art” and “He’s My Boy.”

Jo Kwon, Shin Ju-yeob, MJ of boy band Astro and Ren of boy band NU’EST play Jamie. For MJ and Ren, the show marks their musical debuts.

“Jamie” runs until Sept. 11 at the LG Arts Center in southern Seoul. After the Seoul run, the musical goes to Busan for Sept. 25-27. Tickets are priced from 30,000 won to 140,000 won ($25.01 to $116.70).

By Im Eun-byel (