It's a big month for movie musicals. Following Cinderella, Amazon unleash their second shoe themed one and it's a bit of a sensation. Since first opening for a short run in Sheffield in 2017, Everybody's Talking About Jamie has been a fixture in the West End for four years as well as International productions - with this big budget movie adaptation, it only looks set to continue its quest for world domination. But can this movie match the legacy of the stage show?
Based on a true story, Jamie New celebrates his 16th birthday and speaks of his ambition to be a Drag Queen. When it is revealed he wants to go to his Prom wearing a dress, he has to fight prejudices and his own personal demons to overcome. Thankfully, the movie doesn't make any drastic changes to the story we all know and love.
A good story would be nothing without a suitable cast - and the casting for this is exquisite. Max Harwood is a hit as the titular Jamie, exuding star power out of every pore. He brings an emotional depth which is sensitive to the original story while adding a sense of authenticity to the role. With beautiful vocals, incredible acting and gorgeous looks, he really is a star in the making. After this, don't be surprised when Max Harwood becomes a household name.
It's not just The Jamie Show though - Sarah Lancashire gives a moving performance as Jamie's mum Margaret, bringing the house down with the shows most moving number 'He's My Boy' - anyone worried that moment would lack the impact it has in the flesh needn't have as, if anything, it is even more powerful.
Shobna Gulati reprises her role from the stage show as the hilarious and ballsy Ray, Sharon Horgan gives an understated performance as Miss Hedge while Lauren Patel is the perfect best friend as Pritti, tackling two of the shows most tender numbers, 'It Means Beautiful' and 'Spotlight'.
The last bit of casting I need to talk about is the legendary Richard E. Grant as Hugo Battersby/Loco Chanelle. With an actor of his calibre on board, you would have high expectations for him in this pivotal role, and he certainly doesn't disappoint. The character has had a bit of a rewrite from the show but is still the loving mentor Jamie deserves. For the movie, a new song has been added, 'This Was Me', which looks into Hugo's past and talks about losing loved ones in the 1980s. To say this was the highlight of the whole movie would be an understatement - an incredibly powerful sequence, with a song beautifully written by Dan Gillespie-Sells and even draws on his own history in the footage - it will ensure there is a not dry eye in the house.
The film has a glossier feel than the stage musical. Directed by Jonathan Butterell, it is beautifully shot, adding a touch of glamour to the Sheffield setting. The film adds layers that the musical is unable to, bringing fantasy sequences to life as Max Harwood's Jamie daydreams and fantasises about a world away from the mundane. These sequences bring some of the shows existing numbers to life with opening number 'And You Don't Even Know It' growing bigger and bigger as Jamie escapes reality. The visual highlight is 'Work of Art' which has been re-imagined as... well, a work of art.
Elements of the original story have been expanded on. We repeatedly see flashbacks to Jamies childhood, giving us a further understanding of his fractured relationship with his dad. These scenes add to the poignancy of the story, even more so than the musical does. The first time I saw the stage show, I found parts of it hard to watch due to similarities with my own childhood - the film adds to this and provided several moments which due reduce me to an emotional wreck - a true testament to the power of the story.
There have been some changes to the movie, but I'd add these are all for the better. While certain numbers from the show and some key lines may be missed, the changes all make sense in the grand scheme of things, and the new additions more than make up for them. Any Jamie purists that are reluctant to change should go in to this with an open mind as you may be pleasantly surprised. Also look out for some brilliant cameos from cast members and people associated with the story.
On the surface, Jamie may seem like a lighthearted story about a boy who wants to be a Drag Queen. Go deeper and you will see the true meaning of the story. The show is about tolerance and acceptance - accepting yourself and having others accept you. It also conveys the message that family comes in all different forms and our past does not define us. I hope people watch this movie and understand these messages - it might even change somebody's mind and lead to a more accepting and beautiful world.
As movie adaptations go, this is pretty perfect. True to the original story while making necessary changes that add to the story and provide a new depth to the characters. It may seem unfair to compare this to another upcoming movie musical about a middle-aged schoolkid but where that film seems to have got everything wrong, Jamie has got everything right. A beautiful addition to the Everybody's Talking About Jamie legacy, trust me when I say everybody will be talking about this movie.
Everybody's Talking About Jamie is available on Amazon Prime and in Curzon cinemas from Friday 17th September.