Part-time Traveller, Full-Time Brummie

Theatre Review: Everybody’s Talking About Jamie

(AD – event invite*) Almost 18 months to the day, a cast was waiting in the wings; an excited audience was filing into the auditorium; and then then the announcement was made that theatres were advised to close with immediate effect. That show was Everybody’s Talking About Jamie. So it’s fitting that my first Press Night Review is that very same show. Last night – finally – Everybody’s Talking About Jamie hit the stage of the Alexandra Theatre.

Everybody’s talking ’bout the boy in the dress

The titular Jamie is the teenage hero of Tom McCrae and Dan Gillespie Sells’ phenomenal West End hit. Reprising his London role, Layton Williams slips comfortably into Jamie’s glamourous gladrags for the show’s first UK Tour, directed by Matt Ryan. The musical is in fact based on a real-life Jamie, Jamie Campbell, who dreamt of being a drag queen from an early age. He was told he couldn’t wear a dress to his school prom, and his story inspired a 2011 documentary “Jamie, Drag Queen at 16” before being adapted for the stage by McCrae. 

Jamie can’t see anything but a future of drudgery. His teacher Miss Hedge (Lara Denning) predicts a glittering career ahead. As a fork lift truck driver. After all, no-one really wants to be a drag queen, do they? Jamie is on the verge of accepting his teacher’s pleas to have a realistic plan for the future when he has a lightbulb moment in the form of a pair of scarlet stilettos. 

Jamie has the support of his loving mother Margaret (Amy Ellen Richardson) and best friend Pritti (Sharan Phull) who urge him to drag up for prom. He seeks out local drag artist Hugo – aka Loco Chanelle (Shane Richie) – for advice and ends up making his debut at the Legs 11 Drag Club. His confidence builds enough to stand up to doubting teachers and protesting parents and make a stunning appearance at the prom. 

A little bit of glitter in the grey

Williams brings sass and charisma to Jamie, whilst managing to retain just the right amount of vulnerability. He commands the stage from his very first solo number “The Wall In My Head”.  

Shobna Gulati is a delight as Ray, Jamie’s mum’s best mate. And Sharan Phull not only has a great rapport with Williams as his wise best friend, but she has a wonderful singing voice. Richie plays Jamie’s mentor Loco Chanelle with a fierce tenderness; he plays what could be an OTT role with great subtlety and restraint. Like Williams, he is reprising his role from the West End production. 

The show has been updated a little since it’s last reincarnation with a smattering of mentions of masks, anti-bacterial gel and superspreaders. There’s even a “washing your hands” poster on the bathroom wall – a subtle little touch bringing the show bang up-to-date.

The score is a pop delight with a crowd-pleasing soundtrack of catchy showtunes. Unfortunately at times during the group numbers the vocals were indistinct and drowned out a little by the music. The show-stopping moment though is Richardson’s heartfelt rendition of “He’s My Boy”. You could barely hear a pin drop throughout the packed house. 

The whole supporting cast are wonderful, bringing full colour to Jamie’s story. Projections capture the grey urban setting, but the set (designed by Anna Fleischle) opens up like a dolls house to reveal the world within. Most of the time. A technical fault stops the performance for a short while at the end of the first half.

Out of the darkness, into the spotlight

From start to finish, the show is a celebration of diversity and inclusiveness. It’s a highly positive portrayal of a young man, growing up in Northern England, comfortable in his sexuality.  Finally, Everybody’s talking about Jamie for all the right reasons. It’s a joyous and heart-warming celebration of individuality, self-love and acceptance.

Everybody’s Talking About Jamie plays at Birmingham’s Alexandra Theatre until Saturday 18th September. You can buy your tickets online here, or contact the Box Office on 0844 871 3011. The UK Tour continues until April 2022. 

*Why is this post marked AD? I received complimentary tickets to this event. However, you can trust that I will always be honest and truthful on A Brummie Home and Abroad, and being an invited guest will not influence my opinion in any way.

Photo Credits: Matt Crockett


2 responses to “Theatre Review: Everybody’s Talking About Jamie”

  1. Ohh this has reminded me I still need to watch the film adaptation of this! Sounds like you had a great night.

    • emfletche says:

      The film is fab too! I watched both in the space of a week and enjoyed them both – and the beauty of the film is that i can watch it over and over again!

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