REVIEW: Everybody’s Talking About Jamie (Apollo Theatre)

A little bit of glitter in the grey. That’s what everyone is after right now. In the last week, things have changed so dramatically that the idea of spending a night at the theatre seems like a distant dream. Nobody’s going to see shows at the moment but that doesn’t mean we should stop talking about them. For once it’s nice to have a bit of a blog back log, allowing us to cling onto a sense of normality by reviewing the shows that we saw before UK theatres went dark indefinitely. So tonight we’re talking about Everybody’s Talking About Jamie.

Sashaying into the West End in 2017 after its premiere in Sheffield, this exciting new British musical tells the true story of Jamie Campbell (Jamie New in the show), star of BBC3 documentary Drag Queen at 16. Brought up in Sheffield by single Mum, Margaret (Melissa Jacques) Jamie (Noah Thomas) has always been different. He may be secure in his sexuality, but Jamie still has a secret. He wants to be a drag-queen. Although his careers teacher, Miss Hedge (Katy Brand) thinks he should get real, his mum and her mate Ray (Sejal Keshwara) are totally supportive. Mum’s even bought him his first pair of heels for his birthday! And Jamie’s own best friend, Pritti (Hiba Elchikhe) has persuaded him to wear them to prom. Mentored by ex-drag superstar, Hugo/Loco Chanelle (understudied by James Gillian), does Jamie have what it takes to step into his stilettos and perform at the local drag club in front of half the school? After all, if he can do that, going to prom in a dress and heels will be easy.

It’s a fabulously feel-good show, which will resonate for people who have ever felt different, whatever the reason. It’s very funny in places and heartbreaking in others, with a score that ironically drags a little at the start but soon livens up. Still in his third year at Mountview Academy, Noah Thomas is a convincing, youthful Jamie, who performs the choreography brilliantly. He is supported by a talented and energetic young cast, who all bring their own personalities to the stage. Jacques gives an assured and nuanced performance as the single mum desperately trying to provide for her son while shielding him from the truth about his estranged father. Her singing is sublime and she gets the chance to really show off her powerful voice in showstopping number “He’s My Boy”. Brand is great in her role although the character is a little one-dimensional. Gillian is superb as both Hugo and alter-ego Loco Chanelle so it’s a shame that he feels under-utilised. In fact, there’s rather a lot less drag in it than you might expect of a show about a drag queen. We don’t even really get to see Jamie do his act (by the name of Mimi Me). But what we do see is a story with a lot of heart and an important message about expression and acceptance.

RATING: Raindrops, Whiskers and Kettles (aka 3 out of 5 of my favourite things)

Everybody’s Talking About Jamie is booking at the Apollo Theatre until 29 August 2020.