Thursday, 7 March 2019

 

Everybody's Talking About Jamie at the Apollo Theatre


[AD – gifted] Everybody's been talking about Jamie. Inspired by the BBC documentary Jamie: Drag Queen at 16, the musical with a book and lyrics by Tom MacRae and music by The Feeling frontman Dan Gillespie Sells has been a West End hit since transferring to London from Sheffield in 2017, winning a slew of WhatsOnStage Awards and being nominated for five prestigious Olivier Awards too. And this week I finally had a chance to see for myself what all the buzz was about.

Jamie (Layton Williams) is a 16-year-old Sheffield high schooler with big dreams. While his classmates want be famous footballers, singers, actors and doctors, Jamie wants to be a drag queen. Not the most common aspiration perhaps, but with a supportive mother and family friend, one that doesn't seem too far out of the realm to Jamie. But while he is supported at home, his school isn't very progressive and not only do his fellow students make fun of his dreams, even Jamie's teachers are not on his side.

So yes, Everybody's Talking About Jamie is basically the story of Kinky Boots' Lola's formative years, with some Priscilla Queen of the Dessert performance flair thrown in set in a Sheffield high school.

With all the positive buzz for this show and everyone in the London theatre world quite literally talking about Jamie I had high hopes for this musical. The only reason it took me this long to check it out for myself was lack of time, rather than lack of interest. Unfortunately, as so often is the case, when something is hyped so much it can never quite live up to the expectations, and that is very much the case here as well.

Don't get me wrong, Everybody's Talking About Jamie is a lovely feel-good night out, but it feels more fringe than West End. Save the titular song which is rightfully so reprised throughout, the music is nice but not memorable (not helped by the poor sound quality), the 'drama' thrown in and their resolutions very predictable, and even the choreography and the staging are a bit too am-dram.

The real stars in Jamie are the characters and the the powerful message of diversity that runs throughout. There is Jamie himself, of course, defying gender stereotypes with his love for high heels and flashy dresses, but there's also his Muslim best friend Pritti (Sabrina Sandhu) who has a wonderful moment talking about her decision to wear headscarves – and a hilarious follow-up between her and another classmate at the school prom. In fact, Pritti was at the heart of a lot of the humour, and she was a true delight in every scene she was in.

Everybody's Talking About Jamie isn't quite as sparkling, showy or dramatic as you might expect a musical about a teenage drag queen to be. It focuses on the characters and a sweet story rather than on churning out big show numbers one after another. What it lacks, however, in those over-the-top theatrical moments, it makes up for with a heartwarming story and its humorous approach to today's teenage struggles (drag queen or not).



Everybody's Talking About Jamie is currently taking bookings until 28 September. Get your tickets here.


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