Tuesday, April 23

Everybody’s Talking About Jamie – Sheffield Lyceum

Back in its original home and setting of Sheffield, South Yorkshire, everybody left the theatre last night Talking About Jamie! After the shows premier of 19 performances at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield in 2017, it then moved to the Apollo Theatre London in November 2017 and by May 2021 had racked up its 1000th performance. Everybody’s Talking about Jamie – The Movie premiered in September 2021 and there have been performances and future planned performances in Japan, Los Angeles, Australia, New Zealand and Italy. With awards in abundance, everybody is talking about the meteoric rise of the story of Jamie Campbell, a boy who had a dream to attend his 2011 Prom in a dress and ultimately become a drag queen. Conceived; from the Firecracker documentary ‘Jamie: Drag Queen at 16’ on BBC HD in July 2011; by Jonathan Butterell and then joined by Tom Macrae on Book and Lyrics and Dan Gillespie Sells as Composer and Orchestrator this production is a celebration of being who you really are. With its key themes of Trust and support, family and friendships, acceptance and inclusion this production resonates with everyone in the audience at some level. We meet the archetypal people in Jamie’s life who attack him for his differences, who tell him to be ‘normal’, ‘real’; whatever that is; and the ones that allow him to follow his own path and protect him whilst he finds who he really is. This musical is laced with fabulous Drag Queens, moments of despair and confusion and gritty northern humour and ‘language’ all wrapped in joyous energy.

The Band under the direction of Ben Atkinson were sharp and really added to the emotive moods of the show. The set by Anna Fleischle is effective with the band visible some of the time in what appears to be the upper floors of the school building (it certainly reminded me of my 60/70’s school building). Set changes are seamlessly done by the cast and never stall the flow. The set opens to reveal the detailed home of Jamie, I am unsure however, if the hi tech projection is needed on the set.  The costume design is wonderful, from ‘Dragstastic’ to quotidian, you must watch out in the Victor’s Secrets scene for the one second fast change, blink and you’ll miss it! The choreography by Kate Prince has a modern hip hop feel which works perfectly with the gritty North and the present era.

Credit: Johan Persson

The casting (Will Burton) of the show is spot on, after seeing the original Apollo Theatre cast, I really enjoyed how this cast, under the direction of Matt Ryan and Resident Director Cameron Johnson (who also plays Jamie’s Dad), have developed these characters. Layton Williams is simply stunning, he soared above my high expectations as the loveable, sometimes moody, ‘campy’ fledgling Drag Queen and his soulful voice adds a new dimension of depth to the songs. The vocal duet with his mother played by Amy Ellen Richardson, ‘My Man, Your Boy’ was exceptional and a real tear jerker and was only proceeded by Margaret’s solo ‘He’s My Boy’ that Richardson fully embodied – what a performance, the musicals hidden gem for sure!

Sharan Phull as Pritti Pasha was another talented actress/vocalist and ‘It means beautiful’ simply soared in both meaning and sincerity to a whole new level. Shane Richie as Hugo/Loco Chanelle confidently holds his own with this talented cast, his version of ‘The Legend of Loco Chanel (and the Blood Red Dress)’ is a fabulous piece of storytelling and his soulful delivery really hits the spot. This has been thankfully re added into the musical replacing the films ‘This Was Me’. I adored John Paul McCue’s re-enactment of Loco Chanelle, such 1930’s glamour and pose! A mention must go to Sasha Latoya as Ray, she was hilarious, supportive and fierce, as is said she has ‘more balls than a man!’  The role of the bully Dean was played by understudy Ryan Hughes on the press night as George Sampson was absent. There wasn’t a questionable casting in this show, glorious to behold – total perfection.

So, does Everybody’s Talking About Jamie live up to its hype? Yes, yes, yes and some more! The show is witty, gritty, risky, colourful and sincere. It grips you, its hits you between the eyes, it makes you question yourself and those around. But, most of all it makes you realise that acceptance and tolerance and inclusion are a must in today’s society. Beauty comes in many colours, shapes and patterns and everyone is a butterfly if those around them support; not judge; their transition from chrysalis. If you see one show this year, this has to be it, Everybody’s Talking about Jamie, in its hometown of Sheffield is very special and like last night’s audience, I shall be talking excitedly about it for a long, long time!

Playing until 16th April, https://www.sheffieldtheatres.co.uk/events/everybodys-talking-about-jamie-1

Reviewer: Tracey Bell

Reviewed: 12th April 2022

North West End UK Rating: ★★★★★