Music: Dan Gillespie Sells
Book/Lyrics: Tom Macrae
Writer/Director: Jonathan Butterell
Tour Director: Matt Ryan
Based on a documentary entitled Jamie – Drag Queen at 16, a coming-of-age story of one teen and his struggles with being allowed to express who he was in the way he wanted and trying to find acceptance from his peers and teachers.
Director Jonathan Butterell alongside new musical writers Dan Gillespie Sells and Tom Macrae have brought the story of Jamie to the stage, albeit with a heavy dose of artistic license and a smattering of glitter and sequins.
Launching its first ever UK tour at The Lowry, this incredibly feel-good musical hits all the right notes. The story is engaging – not only does it pull at the heartstrings, but its razor-sharp humour makes you laugh out loud. The relationships of the characters feel complete and never superfluous, and the music is at times hauntingly beautiful as well as uplifting. This is rounded off by a flexible industrial metal set design by Anna Fleiscle which firmly plants us in the story’s homeland of Sheffield – helped with video designs by Luke Halls.
Butterall and tour director Matt Ryan ensure the production is as slick as the make-up, the 2.5hr running time flies by – a tight script and song placement helps keep the story flowing with pace and energy. The cast ignites the stage with incredible energy, especially in ensemble numbers where Kate Prince’s fresh and vibrant choreography can really shine.
The show’s real strength lies within its cast, headlining the company is screen and stage stalwart Shane Richie, who is charming in the role of Hugo/Coco Chanelle, his vocals may not be the strongest but his warmth more than makes up for the shortcomings. Soap star Shobna Gulati is hilarious as the dry, no-nonsense Ray and provides the perfect foil for Amy Ellen Richardson’s Margaret (Jamie’s mum). Richardson really comes into her own during her solo numbers which are filled with wrought emotion.
George Sampson brings plenty of weight to school bully Dean Paxton as does Laura Denning as schoolteacher Miss Hedge. As Jamie’s best friend Pritti Pasha, Sharon Phull is sublime, her transition from wallflower to a strong independent young woman is a joy to behold and her rendition of It Means Beautiful’ is a real show highlight. The night however does belong to Layton Williams as Jamie New. A confident, assured performance that blends perfect comic timing with silky smooth vocals. This is a role Williams was born for and it shows every second he’s on the stage portraying Jamie.
Despite the show being in the opening weeks of its tour, it’s tighter than a drag queen’s tucking and there’s plenty of that on stage too. It’s only going to get bigger and better as the tour continues. Everybody’s Talking About Jamie is a feel-good, vibrant and fresh piece of musical theatre, that demands a return visit.
Runs until 11 September 2021 and continues on a UK Tour until April 2022