Based on the Firecracker documentary, Jamie: Drag Queen At 16, Everybody’s Talking About Jamie takes us on the titular role’s journey to discovering who he is, in and out of a dress. With a refreshingly diverse cast, each character contributes to the vibrant energy which runs through this musical, making for a brilliantly fun, touching and truly unmissable night of theatre.
We are introduced to Jamie New (John McCrea) straightaway, kicking off the action with an ever so bouncy number called ‘And You Don’t Even Know It’, where the character outlines the future he envisions for himself. With his pink glittery socks under his school uniform, there is no doubt that Jamie stands out from the crowd. McCrea shines in this role, his voice beautiful, his comic timing making even the smallest moments ones to remember, and not to mention his absolute sassiness, all while presenting an underlying vulnerability, an internal battle that becomes more prominent as the production goes on. Playing opposite McCrea is Josie Walker, who plays Jamie’s mum Margaret New, the supportive parent who has always embraced the person her son is. Get ready to well up during Walker’s heart-breaking solo numbers, giving the audience an intimate look at her own story. Her voice is reminiscent of the tone of Joni Mitchell, which masterfully connects with the music, and her ability to shed real tears whilst belting out the notes just goes to show her command of her craft. It is also great to see her fun-loving side when we are introduced to the especially entertaining and saucy family- friend, Ray (Mina Anwar). This pair has a wonderful rapport, their fondness of each other radiating through their performances. Another mention must go to Lucie Shorthouse, who plays Jamie’s best friend, Pritti Pasha, who is pretty much the opposite of him as she wants to be a doctor and comes from a stricter household. This seemingly unlikely pairing of characters is lovely to behold, as they connect with one another as people, not based on what meets the eye. The entire cast cannot be faulted, and if you have a penchant for drag queens, this is the show for you. However do not be fooled, this is not another Kinky Boots and is rather a tale of discovery in this fabulously dramatic world of wigs, make-up and “tits from the tit box”.
Written by Jonathan Butterwell and Tom Macrae, the language is current, the characters possessing that cheeky northern humour which effortlessly provides this audience member with an aching jaw from smiling and laughing so often. The composition by Dan Gillespie Sells fits perfectly with a pop vibe, which is not surprising as Sells is also the lead singer/ songwriter for The Feeling, making for instant hits like ‘And You Don’t Even Know It’ and ‘Everybody’s Talking About Jamie’. This is truly a writing match made in (glam) heaven.
The stage, designed by Anna Fleischle, is highly adaptable, folding in and out, moving upstage and downstage and also being projected onto to suggest location. Parts of the set are also wheeled in and out, however these are also used to their full potential, with school desks being used to make a wall and even a catwalk. Lucy Carter’s lighting design works wonderfully with this, and helps transport us to fantasy worlds, the 80s, and a drag shop, contributing to the drama and larger than life characters that we are presented with. Jessica Plews’ make-up and wig design is unrivalled, as the drag queens are fabulously made-up, transforming the actors playing them, staying true to what it is to become their characters. Kate Prince’s choreography is a delightful mix of contemporary, ballet and hip-hop, providing relentless energy and current dance movement details such as the dab during one number featuring the students. Mixed in with the trending movements are timeless moves such as vogueing and a touching contemporary dance duet, which shows an interesting range of styles throughout the show.
There is a reason why everybody is talking about Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, because this musical is a force of nature, just like its protagonist. This incredibly uplifting piece will leave you singing the ever so catchy songs when you leave the theatre, and when you wake up the next morning.
Everybody’s Talking About Jamie is playing Apollo Theatre until the April 21 2018
Photo: Alastair Muir