Saturday, July 20

Everybody’s Talking About Jamie – Bradford Alhambra

When I was at school in the less enlightened 1970s the mere hint of being different would have earned you a beating, so turning up to an end of year disco in a dress would have been inviting real trouble.

So when in our more liberal times Sheffield teenager Jamie New announces he wants to wear a dress to his prom you’d think no-one would care. Sadly, as in most musicals, the road to true self expression is never an easy one as he battles to overcome prejudice and his own insecurities to achieve his dream.

Openly gay Jamie doesn’t want to be a forklift driver that his career teacher thinks is his destiny, instead he wants to be a drag queen like the real life character who Dan Gillespie Sells and Tom MaCrae based their lively musical on. It helps that Jamie has the support of his single working class mum Margaret, and her mouthy best friend Ray, but he finds the inspiration to just be himself from faded drag queen Hugo – aka Loco Chanelle.

Experienced West End performer Ivano Turco is perfectly cast as he says playing Jamie is the closest role he has played to his own character, and his soulful voice rings around this big theatre, especially on a moving Wall In My Head. His movement as Jamie begins his journey is natural, especially in those tricky high heels, and he cleverly balances Jamie’s flamboyance and his teen angst as Hugo wisely observes he is ‘still cooking’ as a drag queen and a man.

All those years dancing with glamorous women proved to be perfect preparation for Strictly Champion Kevin Clifton to play damaged drag performer Hugo. Like Turco he has mastered strutting around in heels displaying the natural grace of a world class dancer belting out The Legend of Loco Chanelle (and the Blood Red Dress) working well with charming drag queens Anthony Gyde, Daniel Jacob and David McNair, who were great fun owning the stage whenever they popped up.

Parents in the room would recognise the dilemma of Rebecca McKinnis as Jamie’s mum wanting to protect her boy, yet understanding he needs to set off on a path that could be a tough one. Her rendition of If I Met Myself was so full of pathos you could almost ignore the risible dance routine that accompanies the number.

There’s loads of humour in amongst the glitz and angst with some beautifully timed one liners from Sejal Keshwala’s Ray, who also acts as Jamie’s surrogate dad, and Talia Palamathanan bounces nicely off Turco as Jamie’s geeky best mate Pritti. X Factor star Sam Bailey is really game as the slightly villainous headteacher Miss Hedge, who ironically warns her pupils not to think they can all be reality stars.

Gillespie Sells uses all his experience in hitmakers The Feeling to deliver some bouncy pop numbers and Tom McCrae’s book doesn’t shy away from the reality that we can live in a bubble where we think homophobia is now just a relic of the past. Olivier winner Anna Fleischle’s set cleverly moves the action from the classroom to Jamie’s home, and a really talented young ensemble make the most of that, especially on a dynamic And You Don’t Even Know It as they smoothly move their school desks around in a fantastic opening number.

Sometimes when a regular touring production comes around again your heart sinks as they are way past their sell by date, but with a fabulous leading man and a great cast this show full of positivity and catchy songs is one that is most definitely still getting everybody talking about Jamie.

Everybody’s Talking About Jamie is at Bradford Alhambra until Saturday 6th July. To book or 01274432000.

Reviewer: Paul Clarke

Reviewed: 1st July 2024

North West End UK Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.