London Theatre Review: Everybody’s Talking About Jamie

Date Posted: 02/08/2018

Everybody's Talking About Jamie

Emily Ansell Elfer left the Apollo dreaming of glitter and killer red heels after seeing Everybody’s Talking About Jamie.

I stepped into London’s Apollo theatre full of excitement and anticipation. I’d lost count of the number of times I’d heard, or read, people saying ‘it’s the new Billy Elliot’ so I was expecting big things.

Thankfully, I wasn’t disappointed. But let’s put an end to the Billy Elliot comparisons – this show is a great sparkly masterpiece in its own right, with a heart-warming real-life story to match.

If you’re not familiar with the story, it goes something like this. Once upon a time in a former mining village in County Durham lived a boy called Jamie. Young Jamie had a secret – his ambition was to become a drag queen and he planned to kick-start his career by attending the school prom in a dress.

Clearly not one to shy away from the spotlight, Jamie pitched his story to documentary company Firecracker and it was produced for BBC3. The rest, as they say, is history. The broadcast set a chain of events into motion and soon the musical Everybody’s Talking About Jamie was born.

Writers Jonathan Butterell, Dan Gillespie Sells and Tom Macrae have made a few tweaks – including switching the story’s location from Country Durham to Sheffield – but the show is inspired by a real boy’s dreams and this shines through from start to finish, with the help of sequins and glitter.

The leading role of Jamie is beautifully played by John McCrea, who fills the stage with oodles of sass. McCrea’s comic timing keeps the show pacy and he also offers an essence of vulnerability, integral to playing a 16-year-old.

Despite the show’s title, I left the theatre talking about much more than Jamie. Every member of the cast pulls their weight, including the lively ensemble made up of Jamie’s schoolmates.

A special mention goes to Lee Ross as Jamie’s mentor drag queen, Hugo Battersby AKA Loco Chanel, who embraces his inner Hollywood diva. Fellow drag queens Laika Virgin, Tray Sophisticay and Sandra Bollock – played by Alex Anstey, James Gillan and Daniel Jacob respectively – also offer plenty of fun.

My one criticism of the production is that we don’t see enough of these four flamboyant characters: more drag and more sequins please!

Everybody's Talking About Jamie

John McCrea (Jamie) and Rebecca McKinnis (Margaret) in Everybody's Talking About Jamie at the Apollo Theatre. Photo by: Matt Crockett.

Lucie Shorthouse is captivating as Jamie’s best friend Pritti Pasha. Level-headed and studious, her personality is the opposite of Jamie’s but she encourages him through some beautiful duets.

However, the show-stealing moment is Rebecca McKinnis singing He’s My Boy as Jamie’s mum Margaret. Her powerful voice alone is enough to impress but the emotions she displays make the lyrics relatable to any parent.

A fairly simple set serves as the backdrop, making good use of computerised imagery. However, with an exciting story, dazzling dance routines and flamboyant costumes, less definitely works as more. A nice touch is having the band on-stage in view of the audience.

Since opening in the West End, Everybody’s Talking About Jamie has scooped multiple awards and is now due to be turned into a musical movie. One thing is for certain – everybody truly is talking about Jamie and if your group visits the Apollo there is no doubt that they will be too. 

www.everybodystalkingaboutjamie.co.uk

Main image: Cast of Everybody's Talking About Jamie. Photo credit: Alastair Muir.
 

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