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Review: Everybody's Talking About Jamie (UK Tour)

Review by Daz Gale


A much-loved musical is coming out of the darkness and into the spotlight as Everybody’s Talking About Jamie returns to the stage for a new UK tour. A show I widely consider to be a favourite of mine, though I have never had the opportunity to review it before. Since I last saw it just over two years ago as it prepared to close in the West End, life has moved on and the world has changed in various ways, so would this show still manage to resonate with me the way it did before, or would it just not be worth talking about?

Premiering in Sheffield for a short run in 2017, Everybody’s Talking About Jamie transferred to the West End later this year where it resided at the Apollo Theatre for just under four years (though with a Covid-enforced hiatus during that time). Since then, it has embarked on a UK tour, played internationally with productions in Seoul, Japan, and the USA, and, of course, had a critically acclaimed movie adaptation bring the story to a much wider audience. This second UK tour kicked off last month and is due to run into 2024 including an extended return to London next year.

Based on a true story, it tells the story of Jamie New. Upon turning 16, he tells people he wants to be a Drag Queen and embarks on his quest to be his truest self, with an ambition to attend his high school Prom wearing a dress. What follows, as you can imagine, are varied reactions from those who feel they have a right to tell him how to live his life, though he is also not without a support network. The story goes even deeper with the relationship Jamie has with his amazing mum Margrate forming the heart of the show.

The writing by Tom Macrae and Jonathan Butterell beautifully unravels the story with a series of well-written, deep and complex characters – all of whom have a part to tell in making this story so carefully realised. With no shortage of comedy thrown in, there are some hilarious one-liners (with some small script revisions since the West End run – look out for updated pop culture references) though this never belittles the nature of the story being told. With a genuine helping of emotion and a real authenticity, few shows manage, Everybody’s Talking About Jamie sensitively brings this much-needed message of inclusivity and being true to yourself to the stage – and boy is the time right for that!

I have always connected to the story in Everybody’s Talking About Jamie on a personal level, due to my own family history and the parallels that play out in the story. The ability this musical has to penetrate your heart and provide relatability is one of its greatest elements, but perhaps it’s even greater to those who can’t relate on any level. We are living in terrifying times with so much hatred, homophobia, and transphobia running rife. To an extent, we seem to be heading backward as a society, with just last week the Prime Minister spreading his own dangerous hatred to the trans community. A story like Everybody’s Talking About Jamie now feels more vital than ever before.

While Jamie’s ambitions are met with the bigoted opinions you would expect, ultimately he manages to overcome this and even change the minds of some of them. It may be unrealistic to think that somebody with equally bigoted views may feel compelled to be a bit more compassionate from watching this, but if theatre can be that powerful and change the mind of even one person, that is still putting more good into the country than those who will tell others not to be true to themselves. At the very least, a show like Jamie is a reminder to every part of the LGBTQIA+ community that they are not alone and there are many who will always stand up for their rights to be who they truly are.

Now that I’ve got that out of my system, let’s talk about what else makes Everybody’s Talking About Jamie such an incredible musical. For starters, there is the glorious music that makes up the show. Full of numbers that have since become classics among musical theatre fans, the music by Dan Gillespie Sells and the lyrics by Tom Macrae are truly outstanding. From the bigger group numbers ‘And You Don’t Even Know It’ and title number ‘Everybody’s Talking About Jamie’ to the more somber ballads ‘The Wall In My Head’ and ‘It Means Beautiful’, there is not a dull number in this show in one of the most consistently strong musicals I have ever seen.

The cast for this touring production features a mix of those who have previously starred in the show and those who are new to the cast. Stepping into the iconic heels of Jamie New is Ivano Turco who wows with his triple-threat talents. Perfectly portraying Jamie, Ivano effortlessly balances the heart and vulnerability of the character to the cocksure confidence that grows as he becomes his Drag persona. With a stunning singing voice bringing something new to these songs with his unique riffs and truly awe-inspiring dancing, Ivano is a star in this role. Personally, I was happy to see him in a show that is worthy of his talents after a previous show that I shall not name. Needless to say though, there is nothing Bad about his performance here.

Rebecca McKinnis reprises her role of Margaret New. No stranger to an emotional musical where she plays a mum, she spent several years in Dear Evan Hansen since she last played Margaret. Both roles combined seem to have made an even more powerful Margaret with her performance this time around inexplicably even more powerful than her already jaw-dropping performance in the West End. With a real sense of warmth, it is easy to buy into the relationship she has with Jamie, with stunning chemistry between her and Ivano. Her vocals are also exemplary with her raw performance of the standout number ‘He’s My Boy’ one of the best I’ve ever witnessed.

Shobna Gulati returns to the role of Ray, stealing every scene she is in as she did before. With her no-nonsense approach, Ray gets some of the best one-liners of the show and Shobna delivers these with glee, showcasing impeccable comic timing. Though she veers dangerously close to villain territory, Hayley Tamaddon delights in her time as teacher Miss Hedge, camping it up for the stunning ‘Work Of Art’. Returning to play school bully Dean Paxton, Jordan Ricketts leads a talented cast of young performers playing Jamie’s classmates while Talia Palamathanan is completely sensational in her portrayal as Pritti Pasha, embodying the kind of genuine best friend any of us would be lucky to have and showing a real affinity with the loveable character.

Though the cast are all incredible in their own right, John Patridge is an absolute marvel as Hugo / Loco Chanelle. It is fair to say he plays the role bigger than I have ever seen before which feels fitting to the character. While he still manages to pull it back for some of Hugo’s more tender moments, the grandeur he displays elsewhere brings something new to the character and I was living for every moment he was on stage and every choice he made. Belting out his lyrics, he turned his musical numbers into showstoppers every single time, and the moment he transformed into Loco Channelle completely took my breath away. I have been lucky enough to see John in several roles in recent years and, dare I say, this may be his very best.

Matt Ryan’s direction ensures the story is played out to its full potential, creating big moments from a relatively sparse stage, working seamlessly with Kate Prince’s brilliant choreography, The set design from Anna Fleischle is more or less an exact replica of the West End show, retaining the scale too, though there are a couple of necessary tweaks for a touring production which don’t detract from the story in any sense. Luke Halls’ video design provides excellent backdrops as the scene changes to various locations around Sheffield, with Lucy Carter’s lighting creating some gorgeous effects.

It's no secret how much I love Everybody’s Talking About Jamie on a personal level and as a lover of theatre. Having never reviewed the show before. I attempted to switch the critical side of my brain on for my viewing this time around… and I came to the exact same conclusion. From its phenomenal writing and amazing music, this show truly is a work of art at the best of times. Add to it one of the best casts I have ever seen and you are left with a remarkably flawless production. With a message that feels more important than ever before, this beautiful show about celebrating your authentic self is a much-needed bit of glitter in the grey. Get yourself a ticket and see why everybody has been talking about this show for the last six years.

Everybody’s Talking About Jamie tours the UK until July 2024. It is currently playing at Birmingham Hippodrome and plays an extended London season from 8th February – 23rd March 2024.

Photos by Matt Crockett



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