HE has emerged as one of the hottest stars in the West End and now, after a Covid-enforced delay, Layton Williams is getting the chance to show his ‘home crowd’ what all the fuss is about.

Bury-born Layton is currently wowing audiences at the Lowry, Salford Quays with the hit musical Everybody’s Talking About Jamie. Based on a true story, it’s the tale of a teenager who wants to be a drag queen and wants to attend his school prom in a dress.

At first glance it might sound a little unconventional to have universal appeal, but this Layton believes is a key part of the show.

He said: “It’s about acceptance. This is a show for everyone, especially for today. It’s not just for people who are into RuPaul’s Drag Race and stuff like that.

“The show is about a boy finding his path in life with the help of his close relationship with his incredible mum and her unconditional love for him.

“I get messages from older people who have been helped by the show, whether it’s helped them come out or helped them understand their children better.

“It does obviously speak directly to the LGBTQ+ youth but it’s not limited to one faction. So many people can relate to being an outcast or feeling different but after seeing the show they’ll feel, to quote one of the songs, there’s a place where they belong.”

The stage is clearly where Layton belongs.

He attended Broad Oak High School in Bury but also trained at the Billy Elliot Academy in Leeds. He also studied street dance at Carol Godby’s Theatre workshop in Bury and ballet at Centre Pointe in Manchester.

He was awarded a scholarship to the prestigious Sylvia Young Theatre School in London and then studied at ‘the school for stars’ the Italia Conti Academy of Theatre Arts.

He was only the second mix race boy - his dad is from Jamaica - to play Billy Elliot in the West End and remains the second longest-serving Billy in the show’s history.

Parts in Rent and the BBC series Beautiful People and Bad Education followed but it’s as Jamie that has really sealed his reputation.

The show clearly has a personal resonance for Layton.

“I’m a queer boy from a council estate up North, so we have that in common,” he said. “Me and my mum have had our moments in the past and sometimes on stage I’m thinking about the things we’ve been through. We always patch things up but families go through stuff.

“And my upbringing wasn’t rosy. As I say, I was a gay boy on a council estate and as much as I tried to hide it I had a few things coming my way.

“It’s not been the easiest ride but I put it into my art.”

Layton has met Jamie Campbell upon whom the show is based.

“He’s a really lovely guy,” he said. “I try to stay as true to him and his story as I can because I want to do it justice.

“I want everyone who comes to see the show to not just get this fierce, fully-formed teenager who’s got everything sorted because then it’d be like ‘So what’s this story about?’

“There’s so much vulnerability to him.”

The show also stars Shane Richie who plays Jamie’s dad and Coronation Street favourite Shobna Gulati who were also both in the West End production and Layton is delighted to be finally bringing Jamie to audiences around the country.

“It’s about giving people the opportunity to see it who might not necessarily be able to because travelling to London is too expensive,” he said. “When I was a musical-theatre-loving kid I couldn’t have afforded to get on a train and come to London.

“We’re bringing the show to a whole new audience and changing their opinions and perspectives and lives, hopefully. I know it sounds super-dramatic when you say it like that but we’re coming to their doorstep telling our story.”

With the country having experienced so much during 18 months of lockdowns and the various problems caused by the pandemic, Jamie probably has an even stronger resonance with audiences than when it first took to the stage in 2017.

“Some people in the audience will maybe see the Dean character (the school bully who picks on Jamie) and think ‘That was me’ or they might see the dad and think ‘I was homophobic’ or they’ll go ‘Everybody is celebrating this boy here so why do I have these negative feelings?’

“They might get dragged to the theatre by their girlfriends or wives, thinking ‘Oh my God, what have I gotten myself into?’ then hopefully by the end of it their hearts and minds will have been opened and their opinions on things have changed.”

For Layton, the emotion in the show is something he’s had to get used to.

“Eight times a week I’m having an argument with this person, bonding with that one, having to cry about this, having to cry about that… The rollercoaster of emotions is a lot to navigate. Being 16 years old is hard. I remember being 16 with all those hormones and stuff.”

Everybody’s Talking About Jamie is at the Lowry, Salford Quays, until Saturday. Details from www.thelowry.com