Everybody’s Talking About Jamie – and now Midlands theatre-goers can join in with the conversation, too. The hit West End musical is once again out on tour and currently showing at The Hippodrome Theatre in Birmingham.
Sixteen-year-old Jamie New lives on a council estate in Sheffield where he doesn’t quite fit in. While terrified about what the future holds for him, he is sure of one thing – he wants to be a drag queen! Supported by his loving mother and surrounded by friends, Jamie overcomes the prejudice (including rejection from his own father) to beat the bullies and step out of the darkness into the spotlight.
Ivano Turco succeeds in breathing fresh life into the lead character that’s become so iconic, despite the musical having done the rounds for nine years. In fact the show has been on quite a journey since the real Jamie’s story hit the screens in documentary form in 2011. Turco does more than justice to this inspiring role while still making it his own.
Jamie’s biggest advocates are his mum, Margaret (Rebecca McKinnis), and her best friend, Ray (Shobna Gulati). Shobna brings most of the show’s laughs with her delivery of one-liners and put-downs, which are faultless, while Rebecca’s solo spots are powerful to the point of show-stealing. If I Met Myself Again reveals the naivety of a younger Margaret, while He’s My Boy is an emotional number celebrating unconditional love and bringing to life the sacrifices of parenthood. One that will have been especially poignant for every mother of teenage boys in the theatre (me included!)
Her tour-de-force performance of a fiercely loyal and protective mother of a boy on a journey to find his true self, packs an emotional punch time after time.
Eastenders’ John Partridge is effortlessly flamboyant in his role as the one-time drag queen Hugo who recognises something of himself in the younger man and encourages him on his ‘journey’ of self-discovery.
And all despite the best efforts of Jamie’s careers teacher Miss Hedge (Hayley Tammadon), whose desire to keep students realistic with their ambitions, quickly becomes a way of stifling them, and relentless school bully Dean (Jordan Ricketts) who is ultimately swept along on his own journey of discovery too.
This is a show which feels emotionally grounded and never loses its authenticity, doing justice to the real Jamie who inspired the story – Jamie Campbell.
The score, while not the most memorable I’ve heard, is powerfully delivered by all concerned, especially McKinnis. Frustratingly, many of the lyrics were drowned out by the music which needed to be dialled down a couple of notches. (But that may be just me?)
Fresh, contemporary and full of pathos, Jamie hits all the right notes with its grit and wit. This is a musical which is uplifting and joyous, but one that also provides a timely reminder of the battles that people everywhere must continue to fight simply just to be themselves.
It’s no wonder everybody’s talking about it!
Everybody’s Talking About Jamie plays at The Birmingham Hippodrome until Saturday and tickets are available here or by calling the box office on 0844 338 5000.