“I’m offending, I’m a trending, gender-bending, gender-blending, gender-pending, gender-ending and transcending work of art.”
Jamie New is a boy from Sheffield, with big dreams and an even bigger personality to boot. In the height of his school years and in the build up to his senior prom, Jamie decides to truly reflect himself, he will not wear a tux like all the other boys, but a dress. He’s enjoyed wearing his mum’s frocks and experimenting with make-up for as long as he can remember, but now he sees the world staring back with a cynical look in its eye. Is he up for the challenge to be accepted and will he overturn prejudice to be true to himself without shame?
Directed by Jonathan Butterell, Everybody’s Talking About Jamie has smashed its way into a third year in London’s West End at the Apollo Theatre, and rightly so. This show is life-affirming, inspiring and hilarious all at once. There is true heart in this story; it’s fundamentally the journey of a mother and son and all the hiccups in the road of an effervescent teenage boy as he finds his way of just being himself.
In the title role of Jamie is newcomer Noah Thomas. Currently studying in his third year at Mountview Academy, he is the perfect Jamie. In a role which is surrounded by so much theatricality and campness, it would be easy to make Jamie a caricature but this boy we grow to love over the course of the evening is so real and beautiful. Thomas gives a stunning performance and rightly earned his rapturous applause and standing ovation at curtain call. As Jamie’s mum, Melissa Jacques turns out an exhausted and vulnerable Margaret New with empathy and pathos. “He’s My Boy” showcased Jacques’s stunning vocal range in the emotional climax of Act 2 and broke all our hearts before hugging us tightly again, alongside Thomas with the reprise.
“A boy in a dress is something to laugh at. A Drag Queen is something to be feared” says the larger-than-life teenager, and nobody encompasses this more that Roy Haylock as Hugo/Loco Chanelle; a dress-shop-owner-cum-drag-queen whose best days are behind him, but the fire still simmers within. Haylock is more popularly recognised by his real-life drag name Bianca Del Rio (Winner of Season 6 of Ru Paul’s Drag Race). As Hugo, Haylock offers us a kind and sensitive man with gumption in droves but it’s not until he embodies Loco Chanelle to become his self-confessed “clown in a gown” that we see him really shine. His vocals by comparison to the rest of the cast fall short, but it is easily forgivable when the rest of his performance is so elevated and well done.
The ensemble performances are all commendable with Hiba Elchikhe as Jamie’s best friend Pritti Pasha proving a real audience favourite almost instantly. Olivier Award nominee Preeya Kalidas’s turn as the rapping careers advisor Miss Hedge is well-received along with Sejal Keshwala as Margaret New’s best friend, Ray; a wonderfully ballsy woman who encompasses all things Sheffield so perfectly. Amongst his school friends, Emily Kenwright shone as Vicki, particularly alongside Alexander Archer during a stunning dance duet. And finally, we must reflect; who needs a Greek Chorus when you have three tired, old Drag Queens to guide you!? Tray Sophisticay (James Gillan), Laika Virgin (David O’Reilly) and Sandra Bollock (Leon Craig) are a trailblazing trio of feathers, fans and fake tits. Pure brilliance.
While the music throughout this show is brilliant, the sound balancing was disappointing and the entire show was simply too loud when the orchestra were in full swing. Some solo lines were lost in big numbers and microphones were audibly muffled as volume was tweaked from the sound desk. While this didn’t detract from the show running as a whole, it was a noticeable hiccup and one I wouldn’t expect to see in a West End show of this standing
We’ve all heard “to thine own-self be true…” (William Shakespeare) but you’ve never heard it said quite like this before. Everybody’s talking about Jamie, and for good reason; it’s downright fabulous.
Reviewed by Harriet Langdown
Photo: Matt Crockett
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