Gender identities represent a topical debate at present and this lively, colourful musical flies the flag for being who you want to be. The show just sashayed its way into London from The Crucible, Sheffield, after a sell-out run. The true story of Jamie Campbell, growing up as a boy who wants to dress like a girl. It sounds simple, but with a stack of conventional obstacles in his way – can Jamie with his dazzling high heels make it as the superstar he believes he is?
Jamie New (John McCrea) is just turning 16 and is about to leave school. The classroom with Jamie and his friends is the setting for the opening number, as Jamie announces ‘He’s a superstar and you don’t even know it’. Set in a school where selfies seem to be just as important as the curriculum, the quick-witted and charismatic Jamie has a journey in front of him before he can dazzle the light on the dark corners of others judgements. In the classroom there is some slick choreography, and ‘Work of Art’ pays homage to Madonna’s ‘Vogue’. There is great choreography by Kirstie Skivington, who manages to create a youthful energy without the dance being too restless.
McCrea gives a flawless performance as Jamie New, dancing in high heels that would make Ru Paul exasperated with jealousy. McCrea has perfect timing and amazing vocals. His bestie at school has her own set of questions surrounding identity and comes close to stealing the limelight. Pritti Pasha, played by Lucie Shorthouse, is a ‘tour de force’ in every scene she is in and gives a stunning and honest performance. Be prepared to be blown away by her vocals in act two when she sings ‘It Means Beautiful’.
Along the way Jamie meets a few stereotypical antagonists, including a bullish class-mate, a slightly sinister schoolteacher, Miss Hedge, and, sadly, his father. Miss Hedge, played by Tasmin Carroll, creates a layered character, whose story shows how positions of authority can often override sensibility.
Jamie’s doting mother does everything she can to protect him but as Jamie hits the streets and starts to make his own decisions her role proves more and more difficult. Jamie’s Mum played by (Josie Walker) sublimely sings an emotive performance of ‘He’s My Boy’ in act two which tugs on your heart-strings.
Jamie meets Hugo, aka Loco Chanelle (Phil Nichol), who runs a shop for drag attire. Hugo takes Jamie under his sequinned wing and pushes him to perform at a local venue and overcome his demons and outer-distractions.
The story is simple and is directed very neatly by George Richmond-Scott. There could have been more depth and insights into the characters, and perhaps a few more chances could have been taken with the direction. The end of the first act, when Jamie performs for the first time, is shown as a still projection; we do not actually get to see him perform, which is a shame.
In the past there have been many a Drag-themed Musical including ‘Victor Victoria’, ‘La Cage Aux Folles’, ‘Priscilla Queen of the Desert’ and more recently the popular ‘Kinky Boots’. ‘Everybody’s talking about Jamie’ is a great addition to the West End but I don’t think it will make a lasting impression like the greats listed above. This is feel-good musical with an excellent score and an enjoyable script. It is a topical tale that will have you feeling warmed up and wonderful in the cold winter months.
Review by Michael Darton.
Tickets here from £23 – https://www.theatreperform.entstix.com/… Apollo Theatre – Shaftesbury Avenue, London.