CAST CHANGES see footnote
Music by Dan Gillespie Sells
Book and Lyrics by Tom MacRae
From an idea by Jonathan Butterell
Directed by Jonathan Butterell
Choreography by Kate Prince
Nica Burns presents the Sheffield Theatres production of
EVERYBODY'S TALKING ABOUT JAMIE
Review by Clive Burton
Some people make a career out of being queer. Combining a natural bent for entertaining in women’s clothes, and with a thousand watt, on-stage, personality, young Jamie New would certainly have been wasted driving the fork-lift truck recommended by his school’s career master.
But then, in Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, Jamie has the good fortune to be played by West End wunderkind, John McCrea and be surrounded by supportive school friends like Lucie Shorthouse’s ambitious Pritti Pasha; a spunky, single mother in Josie Walker’s supportive Margaret; and her bezzie mate, Mina Anwar’s Ray – all singing their hearts out to a glitterball of a score by Dan Gillespie Sells with sassy lyrics by Tom MacRae and a funky ensemble MD’d by Theo Jamieson.
Based on an original BBC 3 documentary aired earlier this decade about the real-life Jamie Campbell, Jamie remains bang-up-to-date, even in our fast-moving world of sexual politics that demands regular rethinks on gender, relationships and ambitions (and delusions) exposed by ever-more-manipulative social media.
How should we behave, what should we wear, what should we do to conform to the fast-shrinking norms imposed upon us?
Assured on the surface, but uncertain of his place in a hostile world, the likeably self-centred Jamie (his drag name embodied by the egocentric moniker, Mimi Me) is buoyed up by an unquenchable desire to be ‘himself’ as a drag queen.
His classmates may harbour rather more mundane career ambitions (a vet is as close to her dream GP job as Pritti will ever get). And even their class teacher, Tamsin Carroll’s supportive Miss Hedge, lets slip that teaching is not her first choice of career.
Others, like Jamie’s nemesis, combative Luke Baker’s bully-boy Dean Paxton, owe their acceptance of an uninspiring future to what Fate has dealt them: that is, nothing worthwhile unless they change their lack of ambition while they still have a chance.
But, supported by his resourceful single mum, who places her son at the centre of her world despite being abandoned by her husband for another woman, Jamie inches towards the irresistible heights of fabulishousness on a pair of vertiginously high red shoes (a birthday gift from Margaret).
Phil Nichol’s somewhat subdued Hugo doesn’t really establish the character of drag-star-turned costumier until after the interval when the book finally allows him to come out to spectacular effect as Loco Chanelle, the demented diva who provides Jamie with the impetus to kick start his career. His appearance with three outrageous ‘sisters’ storming the stage as Alex Anstey’s Laika Virgin, James Gillan’s Tray Sophisticay and Daniel Jacob as Sandra Bollock provide one of the show’s highlights.
Inevitably Jamie proves himself a match for the best of them all – even on the difficult life path he has chosen to follow by taking on the pioneering mantle of gender crusader in today’s confusing climate.
Contemporary street dance (with nods to the Voguing craze of some years back) is provided by ZooNation’s choreographer Kate Prince whose dis-jointed moves capture the essence of a group of young people finding their feet in society.
Two outstanding songs stop the show with the blistering truth of their lyrics. In ‘It means Beautiful’ Pritti adopts a thought-provoking new spin on old attitudes to explain a life philosophy that shields her against the worst excesses of today’s cultural and moral conundrums.
But it Jamie’s mother to whom full honours are due and Josie Walker brings the house down with a fearless ‘He’s my Boy’ that is almost unbearably poignant. Gut wrenchingly delivered on a knife-edge of conflicting emotions, Tom MacRae’s spunky lyrics sum up the selflessness of a mother’s love with a grit rarely experienced on the West End stage since Blood Brothers.
Venue: Apollo Theatre
Address: Shaftesbury Avenue, London, W1D 7ES
Dates: from 6 November 2017
Times: Mon to Sat eves at 7.30pm, Wed & Sat mats at 2.30pm
Box Office: 0330 333 4809 (£2.50 transaction fee per booking)
Tickets: £10 - £65
Box Office: 0330 333 4809
Bianca Del Rio, will making his West End debut playing the role of Loco Chanelle/Hugo from
Saturday 6 May until Saturday 29 June 2019.
Everybody’s Talking About Jamie now stars
Layton William (Billy Elliot, Bad Education) in the title role of Jamie, Shane Richie (EastEnders) as Hugo/Loco Channelle, Hayley Tamaddon (Emmerdale, Coronation Street) as Miss Hedge, Sejal Keshwala as Ray and Sabrina Sandhu as Pritti Pasha. Rebecca McKinnis continues in the role as Jamie’s Mum, Margaret.