Review of 'Everybody's Talking About Jamie'

jamie.jpg http://www.everybodystalkingaboutjamie.co.uk/

Last year at the free West End Live festival in Trafalgar Square the cast of “Everybody's Talking About Jamie” performed a few pieces including the title song. At the time I found it a breath of fresh air with a sense of vitality and fun missing from new musicals. During this year's regular off-season “Get Into London Theatre” sale tickets for Jamie came up so we decided to give it a go.

We were not disappointed.

So, why is everybody talking about Jamie? Based on a true story, Jamie New (John McRea putting on a breathtaking and nuanced performance) is a student in his last year at school but who has always wanted to be a drag queen and is perfectly happy with this choice, but he is not so sure about how those around him will react despite the full support of his mother and her best friend, Ray (played this performance by Rebecca McKinnis). Here we find him coming to terms with this and deciding to “come out” at school by dressing in woman's clothing. He is not put off by the career adviser telling him he should be a forklift operator, he knows what he wants. Jamie is also coming to terms with his estranged father who wants nothing to do with his son, particularly if he is dressed up, but Jamie's mother wants him to feel as though his father cares so makes sure gifts and cards are received from “his father” at birthdays and other vents. After taking advice from a local former drag queen Jamie gets up the courage to dress in drag and put on a performance at the local drag bar where he dominates the stage. When he decides he wants to wear a dress at his graduation dance, is this a step too far?

What is different about this musical is that the characters are real “3D” people - Jamie's mother (Josie Walker, reprising her role from the original production in Sheffield) has her very human frailties yet still has deeply loves and supports her son; Pritti (Lucie Shorthouse), Jamie's best friend, is a fun though slightly insecure young woman in a hijab (reflecting a bit more of the reality of modern life in a British school); her dad (Ken Christiansen) is cold-hearted and simply cannot understand his “mistake” of a son; Dean (Luke Baker), a school bully taking aim at Jamie is so because of his insecurity in his self. Some of these people will change in the course of the show but much like life, not all of them will. We do not really find out why people the way they are…they just are, just like real life. Unapologetic and “in your face”.

The music is great with fantastically vibrant and dynamic staging - A large box on the stage with lines of embedded lights to delimit spaces that is quickly rearranged for each scene including Jamie's home that rotates out of backstage. Walker as Jamie's mother and Shorthouse as Pritti have startlingly good voices - extremely clear with an amazing range.

To be sure, for a musical with this subject expect a lot of swearing and some upsetting scenes…but not too much, this is a musical after all!

A vibrant, real musical set in the modern age - This is NOT “Billy Elliot”. Yeah, perhaps you might be a bit uncomfortable but perhaps this is a good thing? It makes you realise that there is nothing more important than being happy in yourself and in what others choose to be. A refreshing change from other musicals.

Rating:

Review Date: 2018-02-26



Apollo Theatre

Location: London (England)

Address: Apollo Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue, London, W1D 7ES ENGLAND

Public Transport: TUBE Piccadilly Circus

Telephone: +44 (0) 330 333 4809

URL: https://www.nimaxtheatres.com/theatres/apollo-theatre/

Small theatre in the heart of the west end on Shaftesbury. Tiny lobby but very large bar in the basement that can be used before the doors open. Very gaudy interior but good acoustics.