Everyone’s Talking About Jamie – New Wimbledon Theatre, London

Reviewer: Jane Darcy

Writer and Lyrics: Tom McCrae

Music: Dan Gillespie Sells

Director: Matt Ryan

The coming-of-age musical, Everyone’s Talking About Jamie continues to delight audiences with its good-natured message about self-belief and inclusivity. The real-life story of Jamie was the subject of BBC3 documentary in 2011 which became a hit West End musical in 2017 and is now a touring show.

It’s a simple but pleasing idea: in a careers class, sixteen-year-old Jamie is advised to consider fork-lift-truck driving or becoming a prison guard. But he has long cherished dream of working in show business. In fact, as he tells his best friend Pritti, showing her the gorgeous red high-heeled shoes his mother has bought him for his birthday, he wants to become a drag queen. It all starts to become true when he meets Hugo who tells him of his alter-ego, the drag queen Loco Chanelle and before long, Jamie is making his first stage appearance at a local club as Mimi Me. His school friends show up and next day the school is buzzing with delight about Jamie’s drag persona.

This constitutes the first half, neatly realised for this touring show by director Matt Ryan. The small cast include a team of excellent young dancers as Jamie’s teenage class mates, the inevitable bully, Dean, and the glamorous but not-wholly-sympathetic teacher, Miss Hedge, who also likes a high-heel. The inventive set, designed by Anna Fleischle and lit by Lucy Carter, allows the school desks to be transformed into an illuminated dance platform, with the live band hidden on an upper storey. A rotating wall brings us to Jamie’s mother in her kitchen with her supportive friend Ray. Video designer Luke Halls creates effective backdrops of Sheffield streets.

You can’t take your eyes off Adam Taylor as an exuberant Jamie, whose every move is delightfully camp, but it is Amy Ellen Richardson as his mother Margaret who captivates with her magnificent voice. The songs , including And You Don’t Even Know It and The Wall in My Head, are likeable and catchy. The key scene takes place in Hugo’s costume shop. Shane Richie is marvellous as Hugo, revealing to Jamie his persona: the fabulous drag queen Loco Chanelle.

The second half of the show loses a bit of momentum, its main tension being the question of whether Jamie can appear at the school prom in a dress. The likely outcome of Jamie’s attempt to reconnect with his absent father is clearly signalled and only a teenager could really share Jamie’s sense that it’s all his mother’s fault. Her song He’s My Boy is touching, as is her duet with Jamie, My Man, Your Boy, but with the show’s running time of well over two and a half hours, this segment feels over-extended. There’s a nice scene in the bedroom of Pritti (Sharan Phull) where she supports Jamie at his most downcast with her touching song It Means Beautiful. All ends happily, as most fairy tales do.

Runs until 9 April, then on tour

The Reviews Hub Score

Sweet-natured fun

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The Reviews Hub - London

The Reviews Hub London is under the acting editorship of Richard Maguire. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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