Review: Everbody’s Talking About Jamie at The Lowry has ‘so much to enjoy’

Everybody’s Talking About Jamie is one of those musicals that has a wonderful back story, in how it got to the stage and what happened next.

It began with a BBC documentary – Drag Queen at 16 which was screened in 2011.

This is then seen by theatre director Jonathan Butterell.

He knew that this story was about this story of a 16-year-old boy who wanted to go to his school prom in a dress, and the challenges he faced had a certain something, as it felt like a classic fairytale.

And he was right. Luckily Dan Glilespie Sells from The Feeling and many other theatre creatives agreed. And they jumped onboard the good ship Jamie.

In 2017 Everybody’s Talking About Jamie opened at the Sheffield Crucible and since then it transferred to the West End for a hugely successful three-year run, toured the UK and it has been staged in Seoul, Tokyo, LA, Italy, Mexico and Sweden.

And you can get your tickets to this amazing play by clicking here

The film version had a limited cinema release before being streamed on Amazon Prime. Many cinemagoers have also seen the stage version on NT Live.

This new UK tour has some cast members that fans of the show will recognise, as they have been in the show before.

Others are brand new and this production feels slicker and in a way more fully formed, it has grown before your very eyes, compared with the original which had a wide-eyed innocence, as nobody was sure what would happen next.

Now the fandom is here, alongside newcomers and the atmosphere is incredibly warm as a result.

Ivano Turco plays Jamie New, and he brings a Bambi-like quality to the role.

His Jamie is excitable, loving and longing for acceptance.

But more importantly, he just wants to be himself and is learning to stand up for himself.

This comes from having two great women in his life; his loving mum Margaret (Rebecca McKinnis) who would walk on hot coals for him, and her loyal friend Ray (Shobna Gulati) who loves Jamie and calls him “cookie.”

Jamie’s dad (Akshay St Clair) thinks that Jamie is not a real man, describes him as “disgusting” and is out of his life. But Mum sends cards from him and puts money in them, so Jamie is none the wiser.

The real on-stage villain though is teacher Miss Hedge (Hayley Tamaddon) – jaded and not really loving her job, and unlucky in love – she sees Jamie’s quest as breaking the rules and goes out of her way to stop him.

She is a Careers Teacher and once she hears that Jamie wants to become a drag queen, she clicks her Jimmy Choos and goes all out to stop him, like a Wicked Witch from Oz.

Jamie meets dress shop owner and former drag queen Hugo (John Partridge) who in true Ben Kenobi style, shows him the power of the force.

And the force here is not just the dress but the resilience and the finger-snapping attitude that comes with it, as well the as the fast as lightning retorts to possible hecklers.

Throw in school bully Dean (Jordan Ricketts) who picks on Jamie and his studious BFF – Pritti (Talia Palamathanan) and you have all of the ingredients for an uplifting tale of someone who wants to rip up the rulebook and just be themselves.

This is the perfect material for a musical comedy-drama and it works incredibly well, from the brilliant young ensemble who dance up a storm (kudos to choreographer Kate Prince!) during the group numbers, such as the title song.

Through to the drag queens who warm up by having a quick puff of a cigarette outside.

For me  I have always wanted more drag queen scenes in this show, as I think they add the required bite.

John Partridge is at home on stage and the roles of Hugo/Loco Chanelle fit him like a sequined glove, he manages to embody the inner persona of the tired shop owner, through his drag act, and his scenes with Jamie; his young Skywalker/Princess Leia are beautifully realised.

Hayley Tamaddon is suitably jaded as Miss Hedge and she gets to ‘Strike a Pose’ during the excellent song, Work of Art, she is clearly having fun and it comes across.

It is great to see her back on stage on a big musical.

Talia Palamathanan is excellent as Pritti because she peels back her many layers, and she excels during the wonderfully poignant Beautiful, which conveys vulnerability throughout.

Shobna Gulati has played this role before, including the film version.

But she never goes through the motions, her Ray is caring, kind, witty and protective.

Her comic timing is spot on, as she knows how to pause when delivering a funny line and when it hits the target, it simply makes you feel good.

Job done.

Rebecca McKinnis really embodies Margaret’s vulnerability, particularly during He’s My Boy, which has the feel of a Dusty Springfield song. It is epic and heartbreaking in equal measure.

Ivano Turco is a delight as Jamie, he can be sassy one minute and a frightened lamb the next and vocally he has the chops to deliver these clever and complex songs, beautifully written by Tom MacRae.

As a show, it does feel slightly too long as the first half has so much drama packed in, that the second half feels almost done before it begins. But there is so much to enjoy here and the cast gives it their all.

And you are never too far away from a smile and a giggle and it does lift your spirits and we need that right now.

Everybody’s still Talking About Jamie and you can see why. It remains chuffin’ glamtastic.

Everybody’s Talking About Jamie is at the Lowry until 17th September and can be booked here

Better still, you can pick up an amazing two-for-one ticket offer on the 15th and 17th of September by using the code MCRJAMIE241 at checkout.

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