Music: Dan Gillespie Sells
Book and lyrics: Tom MacRae
Director: Matt Ryan
Fizzing with energy from the opening number in a school classroom in the north of England, the touring production of Everybody’s Talking About Jamie hits the stage of the Donald Gordon Theatre in the Wales Millennium Centre. Based on the true story of Jamie New, the 16-year-old boy who struggles to find his true identity, enduring ridicule from his peers and others until he emerges triumphant as a drag queen, Everybody’s Talking About Jamie the musical came into being after the screening of the British TV documentary Jamie Drag Queen at 16 and the film.
Premiered in London to five-star reviews, this current touring production has already received many accolades. Last night, despite the promise of an opening number by a young and nimble-footed ensemble, it was just a tad slow in getting into its stride, but soon gathered momentum, with outstanding performances by some of the cast. Young actor Ivanco Turco in the lead as the young schoolboy struggling to come to terms with his identity, gives an outstanding and totally believable performance backed up by the expertise of the ever- popular John Partridge as Jamie’s male mentor Hugo – but on opening night it was the outstanding performance by Georgina Hagen as Jamie’s mother Margaret New-a last minute cast change – who blew this hardened hack’s breath away. Not only does Hagen have great acting ability but a voice of purity of diction and expression which brought tears to the eyes in the second half with the heartbreak of He’s My Boy, one of the most memorable of the show’s songs by lyricist Tom MacCrae.
Talented performances too from Talia Palamathanan as Pritti, the classmate who befriends Jamie while herself having to cope with being different, and by Hayley Tamaddon as the careers teacher whose inability to understand Jamie brings him to the edge, while Shobna Gulati (who many will remember as Anita in the iconic TV series Dinner Ladies) in a supporting role once again proves what a talented actress she is.
Great dance numbers by choreographer Kate Prince include some balletic jumps and showcase the athleticism of the young ensemble, picking up the pace as the show moves in to the second half and the story unfolds, with a nicely timed moment of shock along the way, while skilful set design is faithful to the era with some well-researched touches.
After a long spell in London’s West End, where it played to packed houses and ditto on the road, Everybody’s Talking About Jamie may be a bit thin on the ground when it comes to memorable musical numbers but nevertheless, these are a hundred per cent right for this appropriately-named show.
Despite the way in which modern attitudes and prejudice have moved on (although sadly not in all respects) Everybody’s Talking About Jamie skilfully pulls out all the stops in reflecting the issues of identity and acceptance of the era. A fantastic musical number brings the show to an end and the audience to its feet.
Runs until Saturday October 28th in Cardiff, then touring.