Note: this review is for the 2021 UK tour of Everybody’s Talking About Jamie.
Jamie is Back!
Everybody’s Talking About Jamie returned to the Alexandra Theatre last night and this has been a show I had been particularly looking forward to. Jamie was the show that was in house when the pandemic restrictions began in 2020 and The Bloke and I were stood in the foyer, programme in hand, when it was announced that the show was forced to close before the performance had happened. Over 500 days later, the return of the show to a sold-out audience felt like a coming home celebration, and I was delighted to see most of the same cast returning.
Jamie New is sixteen and lives on a council estate in Sheffield. Jamie doesn’t quite fit in. Jamie is terrified about the future. He is going to be a sensation.
With Music by Dan Gillespie Sells and the Book and Lyrics by Tom Macrae, Everybody’s Talking About Jamie is based on the true story of Jamie Campbell – the star of BBC3 2011 documentary Jamie: Drag Queen at 16 – and has been a huge critical and success since it premiered at the Sheffield Crucible in 2017.
The show tells the story of Jamie New, a 16 year-old who has aspirations of becoming a drag queen.
Layton Williams was sheer perfection in the role of Jamie New. Sassy, fun, energetic and hilarious, Williams is able to achieve a wonderful balance of a teenager who knows what he wants while dealing with the prejudice, misunderstanding and rejection that he faces from his father, school and bullies.
He is supported by his mother Margaret New, sensitively played by Amy Ellen Richardson and her best friend Ray, played by Shobna Gulati. Richardson does a wonderful job at expressing every emotion an anxious and protective mother possesses and she has a wonderful voice, blowing the audience away with ballad He’s My Boy. Gulati offered much of the comic relief, with perfectly timed, profanity-laden statements and observations that had everyone roaring in their seats.
Sharan Phull is fabulous as Jamie’s best friend, Pritti Pasha. With an incredible voice, on-point comic timing and clearly destined for great things in her career as a performer, Phull transforms from the initially studious and quiet Pritti to confident and self-assured as she stands up to the eye-watering taunts of school bully Dean Paxton, played by George Sampson.
TV and stage legend Shane Ritchie had charisma by the bucket-load in the role of ageing drag queen and mentor Hugo / Loco Chanelle.
And who doesn’t love a good drag queen. Everybody’s Talking About Jamie gave us three of them, with Garry Lee, JP McCue and Rhys Taylor as the effervescent Sandra Bollock, Laika Virgin and Tray Sophisticay.
As a former secondary teacher the classroom and prom preparation scenes with the talented and energetic supporting cast brought back some relatable memories. I know those kids, I’ve taught those kids, and some of the classroom dialogue and characters made me smile.
There were obviously a few sound level issues during the performance, with some of the songs almost being drowned out by the band and a temporary short stoppage due to technical issues just before the end of the first half, but this didn’t take much away from the show. I loved it – I loved the energy, enthusiasm, the talent of all the cast and the message of empowerment, self-belief, living your truth and acceptance of others behind it. Absolutely a must-see show.
In the words of the great Ru Paul:
We’re all born naked and the rest is drag.
Everybody’s Talking About Jamie will be on stage at the Alexandra Theatre until Saturday 18th September 2021, with a matinee on Saturday afternoon and the final show in the evening. To purchase tickets, visit here.
Disclaimer: The Bloke and I were given complimentary tickets to the show but were under no obligation to provide a positive review.
Photo credit: Matt Crockett