This staggeringly enjoyable musical about a teen drag queen transfers triumphantly to London
‘Everybody’s Talking About Jamie’ is a burst of joy in the heart of the West End. This new British musical, transferring from the Sheffield Crucible, is the real deal. Watch out, tired revivals: there’s a new kid in town.
Inspired by a 2011 BBC documentary about a teenager who wanted to be a drag queen, the show follows 16-year-old Jamie on his journey to be himself – out of a classroom in a working-class part of Sheffield, away from the bigotry of a deadbeat dad, and into high heels.
Director Jonathan Butterell’s production is a high-impact blaze of colour, combining video projections with seamless scene changes and a live band above the stage. It captures the frenetic energy of being a teenager.
Every element of this show works beautifully together. The music, by The Feeling frontman Dan Gillespie Sells, is a deft mix of irresistibly catchy, pop-honed foot-tappers – try not to hum ‘And You Don’t Even Know It’, I dare you – and truthful, heart-wrenching numbers.
This is Sells’s first foray into writing for musicals, but he’s always excelled at telling stories in song.
He is matched by the show’s writer and lyricist Tom MacRae. Apart from notable exceptions like Punchdrunk’s ‘Doctor Who’-themed kids’ show ‘The Crash of Elysium’, he’s largely written for TV, but this works well here. His dialogue is punchy, funny and often lands with a sting.
While most of the characters exist to orbit Jamie, they still have their own stories and these are crisply told. As Pritti, Jamie’s best friend who wants to be a doctor, Lucie Shorthouse is funny and affecting.
Josie Walker is superb as Margaret, Jamie’s mum, who’s raised him alone. She pours her heart into the spine-tingling ‘If I Met Myself Again’. Mina Anwar, meanwhile, lights up the stage as her no-shit-taking bezzie, Ray. Family means a lot of different things here.
And at the show’s heart is a star-making turn by John McCrea as Jamie, the queen-in-waiting. Charismatically sharp and sassy during the showstoppers, pulse-racingly choreographed by Kate Prince, he deftly reveals the ache of vulnerability behind his character’s catwalk strut.
Sells and MacRae craft a world that bubbles with hope but doesn’t ignore its hardships. Jamie and his classmates face a society beaten down by broken relationships and poverty, that tells them there’s no point trying.
But ‘Everybody’s Talking About Jamie’ is too fabulous to be a pity party. It’s a joyous punch in the air about following your dreams and being yourself. ‘Life-affirming’ is generally an over-used term, but not here. This production owns the stage.
This review is from 2017. The current cast features Rebecca McKinnis (as Margaret New) and Shobna Gulati (as Ray). ‘RuPaul's Drag Race’ judge Michelle Visage will join the cast as Miss Hedge from October 18 to January 26. Layton Williams takes over the lead role of Jamie from January 28 2019. Check the official website for full cast details.
|Venue name:||Apollo Shaftesbury|
|Transport:||Tube: Piccadilly Circus|
|Price:||£10-£65. Runs 2hr 40min|
Average User Rating
4.6 / 5
- 5 star:36
- 4 star:10
- 3 star:3
- 2 star:1
- 1 star:0
Now I know why EVERYONE is talking about Jamie!!! What a brilliant show.
All about following your dreams and family it may have left a little tear in my eye, I admit it!
I have to say very the first number the leads voice was a little off and I was thinking to myself 'two hours of this' but everything from there on in was just brilliant. The mothers voice was mind blowing as were Jamie's skill in those ridiculously amazing red heels (WANT!).
A beautiful story of owning your life, following your dreams and not letting the haters get you down. Coming of age in the most fabulously way ever - I think every high school kid should be going to this!
I would highly recommend soaking up the sass of this one, you will come out singing and loving life :)
This is the best musical i saw this year and you have to choose one - make it Jamie! There are so many reasons to love it and I am going to give you TEN without any spoilers:
1. JOHN MCCREA - WHY he hasn't won the ward for Best Actor in a Musical is a wonder. His moves are sharp, his singing dreamy and his acting is just FABULOUS, darling. Charismatic, beautiful and able to express his emotions from insecurities, doubt, determination, ambition, rejection to joy and euphoria and love - he has it all and I think he has a bright future in Stage and Screen.
2. Jonathan Butterell’s production defines what makes the best theatre and musical - DIRECTION, DIRECTION, DIRECTION!. The movement and choreography are sublime and just marvellous!
3. Script and lyrics by Tom MacRae and Music by The Feeling frontman Dan Gillespie Sells - for their debut playwright and stage musical - Everybody's Talking about a Jamie is a staggering, charismatic, razzmatazz Triumph!
4. Margaret - played by Josie Walker is what a single mother raising her child alone is like. She was a fantastic mother... too fantastic perhaps that she even made up stories, excuses and made sure Jamie receives cards, presents and flowers on occasions that matter. She went as far as begging for her ex to give Jamie a chance. Whilst she is accepting and celebrating Jamie's dream to be a drag queen at as young as 16, she also understood what it's like to be rejected by your own flesh and blood. It's this dichotomy that makes Margaret a beautiful character and make us root for her instead of having a city party over her *mistakes* as a mother.
5. Pritti - Jamie's best friend is the quintessential Asian girl - studious, driven, loyal and outspoken - she holds her own against the bullies in school and those who tease her for wearing the hijab, She was also very protective of Jamie and focussed on her ambition to be a doctor despite all the detraction from her teacher and peers. One of the most moving scenes in the play was when she told Jamie, she CHOSE to wear the hijab herself because that's who she is and told Jamie to be himself and go to the prom in a dress and not in drag.
Lucie Shorthouse captures the essence of Pritti perfectly - it's also a very well written character with different facets and layers. IN fact one of the best characters in the play.
6. Ray is Margaret's best friend who is practically Jamie's auntie or godmother - she's there for both Margaret and Jamie and have more balls than any men in his life especially his dad! Ray made no apologies for who she is and believe in Jamie.
7. Hugo owns the costume store where Jamie got her first dress and was introduced to the glamorous world of real drag queens> Hugo mentored him and opened the stage for him to perform in public for the first time as Mememe... Hugo also saved him from the street after a heartbreaking and sobering scene with his father and told him to go home and make amends with his mum.
8 Community - the classmates are different yet all come together when it's crunch time! The way that the three drag queens took Jamie under their wings and make him feel that he is beautiful and has a place on stage and can claim his place in the world as himself.
9 Spirit - The beauty of Jamie is not just that in the end, fairy tale does come true but the little-little things that pave the way there and how it accumulates into big things which define a self discovering journeys not just for Jamie but also for everyone on the play - his mom, Hugo, the teacher, Pritti, his classmates including the chief bully. His mother realised that Jamie has to accept that he's beautiful even though he's rejected by his own father and she shouldn't be lying and going to great lengths to cover up for her Ex just to protect Jamie. It makes Jamie stronger and confident of his choice including to take the trash out in stilettos!
10 Diversity - the cast is one of the most diversified in London theater today - and not just in terms of sexuality, race and colour but also in terms of characterisations, facets and layers. This play makes you feel that the different performers were there not just to represent a race of colour or to make the play look diversified but each resonates with the character they play and can tell the journey and stories in their own way and resonate with what the play demands.
But we don't go watch a musical for diversity and to see if there are POCs in the cast - we go to be swept off our feet, coming out lighter, singing and dancing and for that reason alone - you will ENJOY JAMIE!
Trust me on this - it's the best musical in London this year! Go and talk, sing,dance, shout, celebrate Jamie!
I saw this show on 5 March and really enjoyed it. It's an original musical with some really good songs and story. John McCrea is terrific as Jamie and Josie Walker has a beautiful singing voice and can give meaning to a song. There are a lot of important social issues covered in the show in a subtle and well done manner; not just about Jamie wanting to be a drag queen, but the choices that people make that effect their lives when they get older. This show is worth seeing.
Such a feel good show! Especially for young people. It gives you the confidence to be who you are and that being "different" is actually empowering. John McCrea is absolutely phenomenal, it's as if he was born to play the role of Jamie, and his best friend Pritti played by Lucie Shorthouse made me feel like I want to go out and be the most powerful women I can be! There were so many other great performances by some very talented people but I don't want to go on! Everyone must see it, definitely if you need cheering up or want to boost your self confidence!
We liked the general story of the musical and the very positive messages it's conveying, but you've got to be kidding me if you think the show merits 5 stars. It was a severe disappointment given all the positive reviews from both Time Out and other users. Did we see the same musical?? It had some nice bits, and we loved the diverse characters. But there was really nothing memorable when it comes to the music. Not a single song stuck in our mind as we left the theater. For example, we we felt "He's My Boy" which is intended to be an emotional high point, was major lyrical miss.
As far as the plot / story is concerned, it was pretty underwhelming. Maybe it was true to life, but it comes across as very light in terms of depth of real drama. Perhaps the real-life Jamie had it this easy with peer acceptance (save one student character), but I'd say that's far from the reality the vast majority of transgenders experience.
Don't bother. As reviewer Josie says, there are far better shows to see.
Utterly joyous! John McCrea is mesmerising as our eponymous hero/ine. He was born to do this role & it’s really hard to imagine another actor as his character. Fabulous characters bought to life by an amazing cast, witty script & toe tapping tunes. This is contemporary musical perfection. I laughed, I cried & I want to see it again. One of this years must see productions
What is it about red shoes? Dorothy in Wizard of Oz, Lola in Kinky Boots, and now Jamie. There’s just something about them which signifies determination, empowerment, and triumph (and seemingly draws in a broadly LGBBTQ+ audience). Jamie certainly earns its place on the list. Performing the queer, coming-of-age story with enthusiasm which pours off the stage, is a truly incredible cast. John McCrea (as Jamie) is of course the leading light, but he stands on the mighty shoulders of Josie Walker (Mum), Mina Anwar (Ray), and Lucie Shorthouse (Pretti). The program proclaims this is Lucie’s West-End debut, and I simply can’t wait to see more of her.
The show itself inspires patriotism (not least because they often maintain their Northern accents while singing!), and is reminiscent of films set in 1980’s Britain such as Billy Elliot, The Full Monty, Brassed Off, etc., a genre I happen to adore and am eager to notice a resurgence of: this time round with a broader diversity of race, nationality, and (of course) gender expression.
Aesthetically, the stage is usually uncluttered, the setting beautifully articulated by video/moving image footage (designer: Luke Halls). Using video in theatre is becoming fashionable, and I always find exciting as it adds another dimension to the design. In this case, it allowed the cast to express the flamboyancy of Jamie in an otherwise grey, overcast town in Sheffield. Having said this, I was slightly underwhelmed by some of the drag costumes.
Perhaps it’s the theatrical circles I move in, but there are several people to whom I will be highly recommending this show because they simply must see it!
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