JAMIE New is 16 and lives on a council estate in Sheffield. Jamie doesn’t quite fit in. He’s terrified about the future. But he’s going to be a sensation.

Supported by his brilliant, loving mum and his friends, Jamie overcomes prejudice, beats the bullies and steps into the spotlight...

Hit musical Everybody’s Talking About Jamie is coming to Bradford this summer. Set to a catchy score of pop tunes by singer-songwriter of The Feeling, Dan Gillespie, the feelgood coming-of-age musical stars West End star Ivano Turco, X-Factor winner Sam Bailey and former Strictly Come Dancing champ Kevin Clifton.

To get into his role as Hugo/drag queen Loco Chanelle, Kevin sashayed around in heels at home. He also went walking through London streets in drag. “I wanted to feel the judgment of people and hear the comments as I went past,” he says, adding that it helped him understand the kind of prejudice Huge would have put up with.

Jamie is Kevin’s latest musical theatre show since leaving Strictly. Playing Hugo, Jamie’s mentor, appealed because it was outside his comfort zone: “I’ve never done drag before, I knew it would be a challenge but it was a character I could throw myself into.”

Growing up in Grimsby, Kevin started out in a creative field, ballroom dancing, which was “considered sort of feminine,” he says. “I’d turn up to school with an orange neck from the fake tan and I had a perm to make me look taller, all that stuff. The way people would comment and perceive me, I can latch on with this character.”

He found getting into Loco Chanelle’s costume an empowering experience: “Getting into drag is like putting armour on. You feel transformed.”

Quitting Strictly in March 2020 felt bold, but his move into acting hit a snag when the pandemic shut the theatre world down. He has since flourished in such shows as Singin’ in the Rain, Rock of Ages and Strictly Ballroom. He’s now a dad to Minnie, his daughter with presenter Stacey Dooley, they met on Strictly and waltzed to the final in 2018. He says parenthood has made him feel “like I’ve grown up. With every decision now, the first thought is Minnie; ‘Do I want to take this job?’ and ‘How long will it take me away from home’?”

He’d love more screen work, having made his TV acting debut with a cameo in BBC drama Father Brown. The dream is that “One day people will think of me as an actor first, rather than as a dancer from Strictly.”

In his short career so far, talented musical theatre star Ivano Turco has demonstrated quite a range. Having made his professional debut as Prince Sebastian in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cinderella in the West End, he played reggae icon Bob Marley in the musical Get Up, Stand Up! He says gay teenage hero and aspiring drag queen Jamie is “the closest to my character that I’ve played”.

In the rehearsal process he hasn’t had to do as much “in terms of trying to figure out Jamie’s mannerisms and all these nuances. It’s very freeing, in that I can put a lot of my natural movement into it.”

Another aspect of the role that resonates with Ivano is Jamie’s close relationship with his mother: “For the most part I grew up in a single parent household with my mother as well, so we had that kind of connection. Like Jamie, I know what it felt like to have a dream that was different from everyone else’s.”

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Ivano as Jamie in the hit musical Ivano as Jamie in the hit musical (Image: Matt Crockett)

Since it premiered in 2017, Jamie has become an international hit. Ivano believes a lot of that has to do with the pioneering nature of Jamie. “He’s just a boy who happens to be gay, and wants to be a drag queen. I think that’s a refreshing lens to have a queer character to look at through - someone who’s not burdened by their queerness,” he says. “I felt empowered by that, watching it.”

Having set his sights on performing since singing in church, growing up in Milton Keynes, Ivano graduated from drama school in 2020, to be chosen by Lord Lloyd Webber as the male lead in his hotly-anticipated new musical. “To have a multi-million pound musical resting on your shoulders was hard to navigate. But somewhere about halfway through the run, because I really knew the show and what I wanted to do as an actor, it became perfect.”

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: The show is about a boy who has a dream The show is about a boy who has a dream (Image: Matt Crockett)

Last year he took on the role of Bob Marley in the Get Up, Stand Up! musical. As for the future, he’s not looking too far beyond Jamie. “This role is my chance to put all my techniques that I’ve learned into overdrive. This character is so much closer to me. I feel like there’s a lot more power with it.”

Powerhouse singer and actor Sam Bailey knows about not conforming to gender stereotypes. When Sam, who won X-Factor in 2013, was growing up in Leicester she loved football. But girls at her school did netball instead, so she petitioned to be allowed to play with the boys. “A boys’ coach said ‘Sam, you can only play for our team if you cut your hair’. So I went home, got a pair of scissors and cut it off,” she recalls.

Sam says Jamie’s message of acceptance should resonate with parents as much as children: “It’s not just about anyone that wants to wear a dress. It’s about accepting what they want to do and supporting them. I know someone whose daughter wants to be a dancer, the parents wanted her to be an accountant and go to university, she was incredibly sad. Now she’s going to a dance school in London because they thought ‘You know what? My child’s mental health is worth so much more’.”

Sam plays tough teacher Miss Hedge, who tries to quash Jamie’s drag dreams. For Sam, she’s not so much the villain as the messenger: “She’s been told by the headmaster to deal the fatal blow of ‘you can’t do that’ and I don’t think she wants to. She’s got a soft centre, you see little pockets of that.”

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Sam Bailey as tough minded teacher Miss Hedge Sam Bailey as tough minded teacher Miss Hedge (Image: Matt Crockett)

Sam went on X Factor with no expectations, she just wanted to earn enough from singing to buy a new kitchen. As a prison officer, she was thick-skinned when it came to the pressure-cooker of Saturday night live shows. “I was also singing 30 songs a night in pubs so one song a week was a doddle,” she laughs.

She’s released two albums and forged an acting career, with roles in musicals such as Chicago. Now she’d like some meaty TV roles. “I’d love to be in Eastenders. I reckon I’d be a Slater - a long-lost cousin.” She’d certainly cause a stir at Queen Vic karaoke nights.

* Everybody’s Talking About Jamie is at the Alhambra, July 1-6. Call (01274) 432000 or visit bradford-theatres.co.uk