As the audience jostles to find their seats in the auditorium of the Apollo Theatre (on the 2nd birthday performance of the show that everybody’s talking about), the chatter and laughter is cut short as a tall figure enters the room – a shock of white-blond hair and a figure hugging dress of teal. The inspiration for the smash-hit musical Everybody’s Talking About Jamie – Jamie Campbell – who walks into the space with his mother Margaret, casts a shy smile towards the audience and takes his seat. The show starts and we are transported to a small village in the north east of England where we meet Jamie New, who to escape the uninspiring world of the classroom, announces his plans to realise his dreams of becoming a drag queen.
In a high school classroom, Miss Hedge – a career teacher – talks her students through their future prospects. Jamie is told that he’ll be a forklift driver, an idea that clashes with his dreams of crafting a career performing in drag. At home, his mother Margaret and her friend Ray are fully supportive of Jamie’s dreams and encourage him to live the life he wants to live, with no compromise. However, they are conscious of the resistance he’ll meet from the outside world. Jamie visits a local drag store and meets Hugo, who once performed as the legendary Loco Chanelle. Inspired by his confidence and determination, Hugo loans Jamie a dress and offers him a slot to perform at his show. However, as Jamie’s plans become public knowledge, others conspire to block and hinder his path.
There is a reason why Everybody’s Talking About Jamie has enjoyed widespread acclaim, not to mention a string of awards, in its two-year history in the West End. The show not only packs in high-kicking and catchy pop-rock songs that see the cast whizzing about the stage with infectious delight but reflects the increasing mainstream popularity of drag. The whole company works together fantastically, moving fluidly and delivering Kate Prince’s choreography with clockwork, punchy energy.
Layton Williams, standing centre stage as Jamie, delivers a beautiful interpretation of the complex role. His comic timing is flawless, exuding sass and steadfast ambition, while his ability to portray Jamie’s moments of self-doubt centres the show wonderfully. The standout performance comes in the form of Pritti Pasha – Jamie’s best friend – performed expertly by Sabrina Sandhu. Sandhu’s understated portrayal of no-nonsense Pritti serves as a central voice of reason among the chaos of the other classmates and her journey from reserved wallflower to outspoken champion of self-belief is incredibly well acted. Her performance of ‘Beautiful’ is just stunning too.
A true highlight of the show comes from Melissa Jacques’ performance of ‘He’s My Boy’ in the role of Jamie’s mother Margaret. Unleashing a heavenly voice that soars across the auditorium and cascades over the audience, her utterly captivating portrayal of a mother’s love is nothing short of spellbinding.
This is a really enjoyable production with incredible, memorable songs from Dan Gillespie-Sells and Tom MacRae and some truly inspired performances from the cast. The story’s message of self-discovery and self-acceptance bursts forth with palpable force and the audience barely restrains themselves from cheering at every turn. An incredible piece that will surely be enjoyed for a long time to come.
Reviewed by Alex Foott
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