Everyone loves a good musical theatre soundtrack and, when you’re humming the songs on the way out of the auditorium you know you’ve enjoyed the show. When you’re still full-on belting them when you pull on the drive…that’s when you know you’ve had a night like no other.
Cue Everybody’s Talking About Jamie.
Jamie is coming-of-age stage musical with music by The Feeling frontman, Dan Gillespie Sells and book and lyrics by Tom MacRae. The show is inspired by the 2011 television documentary Jamie: Drag Queen at 16 directed by Jenny Popplewell. The musical follows a 16-year-old teenager as he overcomes prejudice, beats the bullies and steps out of the darkness to become a drag queen.
Having debuted in the West End in 2017, this tour - delayed from last year - is the first time Jamie has left the capital and taken a good chunk of its London cast with it. That soundtrack is mixed with a solid chunk of Northern charm and wit and a story which resonates so poignantly with a cross-section of society. It’s hilarious, heart-wrenching, sassy and an exquisite example of the quality of new musicals we produce in Britain.
Former West End Jamie, Layton Williams reprises his role to head up the cast and is a stellar example of what a leading man should be. He embodies Jamie New and his chemistry with the character shines through - but without complacency. Williams isn’t going through the motions, he’s giving us full-frontal sass and the audience love him for it.
Amy Ellen Richardson blew the audience away with her portrayal of Jamie’s mum, Margaret. Josie Walker originated the role in London and, night after night was well know for bringing the audience to tears. It’s hard to imagine anyone else playing Margaret, but Richardson was simply outstanding tonight.
Special mention should go to Shane Richie for his return to the character of Hugo. The part could have been written for him and his command of the stage reminds you of his years of experience. The phrase ‘a safe pair of hands’ could be seen as a psuedo-criticism but for Richie it’s simply confirmation that, when the challenge is presented, he rises to it ten-fold.
However, for me the star of the show was Shobna Gulati as Ray, the friend and confidante of Margaret. Gulati played the role in the London production and will also star in the big-screen version which is due to be released on September 17th. Her talent shines through on stage with beautiful delivery and a classic Northern humour, it’s such a huge asset to the Jamie family that Shobna’s love affair with the story still remains strong.
Without hesitation, I’d happily say Everybody’s Talking About Jamie is exactly what we need in the world right now. An important, poignant piece of theatre with a heart, a message and a stack of humour. Without sounding (too) cliche, this production really is in a place where it belongs and is something the whole country should have in their ‘to see’ list.
Everybody’s Talking About Jamie plays at Birmingham’s Alexandra Theatre until Saturday 18th September. For more information, visit atgtickets.com/birmingham.