FeaturedMusicalNorth East & YorkshireReview

Everybody’s Talking About Jamie – Alhambra Theatre, Bradford

Reviewer: Jennie Eyres

Music: Dan Gillespie Sells

Book and Lyrics: Tom MacRae

Original Director and Co-Writer: Jonathan Butterell

Director: Matt Ryan

Some began talking about Jamie in 2011, when a BBC Three documentary called Jamie: Drag Queen at 16 was released, about Bishop Auckland teen Jamie Campbell and his struggles to be accepted by his community, in particular his school. But everybody began talking about him in 2017, when Dan Gillespie Sells teamed up with Tom MacRae and Jonathan Butterell to create a clever, heartwarming and fabulous musical inspired by the documentary. Seven years later and it shows no signs of slowing down or stopping, as this current production successfully tours the country, leaving smiles and sequins in its wake.

This is a special show, hard hitting when it needs to be, poignant in places and fabulously camp and glittery whenever a splash of colour is required in the grey. It is clever and thoughtful with a clear message about belonging and understanding.

With the exception of a few small elements, the touring version of Everybody’s Talking About Jamie is essentially the same as the West End production, which is unusual these days. Props, costumes, set, very little was pared down and the slick choreography by Kate Prince packed a real punch despite the presence of both a full class of cast members and desks and chairs to manoeuvre around.

Jamie New (Ivano Turco) is a teenager in Sheffield, who wants to escape his humdrum life to be something more fabulous – a drag queen. Jamie embarks on his journey with the support of his mum Margaret (Rebecca McKinnis) and her close friend Ray (Sejal Keshwala) as well as his best friend, the clever but reserved Pritti Pasha (Talia Palamathanan). Having met and been inspired by Hugo (Kevin Clifton), a local drag queen and costume shop owner, Jamie then begins on a rollercoaster of emotion, humiliation, bravery and resilience to achieve his dual goals of drag artist and being able to wear a dress to the school prom.

Ivano Turco is outstanding in this role – warm, cheeky and instantly likeable, he plays Jamie perfectly, with all of his bravado, his inner saboteur and his vulnerability on show. Turco’s voice is exceptional and his dancing is just as good. He brings an additional layer to the character that your reviewer has not seen in previous productions.

The key role of Margaret New requires the ability to sing an emotional and heartfelt solo whilst also demonstrating a steely backbone and resolve, that comes through in the big notes of He’s My Boy – Rebecca McKinnis has absolutely no problem doing this. Tears were shed and audiences sniffed as their heartstrings were plucked while McKinnis invited us to empathise with her story of a single mother working hard to support her son.

Kevin Clifton is just as impressive in this show as he was in Strictly Ballroom in 2021. Though best known for his dancing due to Strictly Come Dancing, Clifton is much more than a pair of pretty nifty feet. His voice is strong and his acting is great, particularly when he dons the garb of his alter ego Loco Chanelle. He fits well into the cast, but for being just very slightly too young for the part of the aging Drag Queen.

All of the students were excellent, the cast were absolutely in tune with each other throughout, every movement was on the beat and every note was perfect. These actors are very believable, often a difficult feat when required to play parts somewhat younger than they are.

One of the best elements of this show is its relevancy – the script has been updated to contain references to current popular culture and a few ‘in’ jokes too, and the nod to Pitch Perfect with some cute ‘cupography’ was noticed and appreciated too. This is a show that could have been set squarely in 2011, instead it stays contemporary and clever, while recognising and remembering its roots. An absolute joy to watch.

Runs until 6th July 2024.

The Reviews Hub Score

Incredible and heartwarming

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The Reviews Hub - Yorkshire & North East

The Yorkshire & North East team is under the editorship of Jacob Bush. 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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