Everybody’s Talking About Jamie @ Apollo Theatre
Cast Includes John McCrea, Josie Walker and Mina Anwar
Running Time: 2 hours 35 mins, inc. interval
Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, the first musical written by Tom Macrae and Dan Gillespie-Sells (formerly of The Feeling) proved a huge hit when it was first staged in Sheffield, so much so that Nica Burns decided that the show had to transfer to the West End. The big question is: is Jamie all talk, or does it live up to the hype?
Fortunately, the answer to that question is a resounding yes. The plot, which is itself based on a documentary (Jamie: Drag Queen at 16, BBC) follows the story of Jamie New, and is a story of being true to oneself and following your dreams – in this way it is reminiscent of Kinky Boots or Billy Elliott, but the plot has many realistic portrayals and each character feels fully formed. The only thing that feels out of place with the musical is its structure – rather than starting on a song immediately, there is a short scene which feels superfluous.
One of the major things to mention is the score to the piece, which is an absolute highlight. Gillespie-Sells utilises his pop background to craft a memorable set of songs, most of which manage to be ‘hits’ – there are very few songs that are either superfluous, and none are repetitive (which is rare for many musicals). Of particular note are the opening number ‘And You Don’t Even Know It’ and ‘Work of Art’ which are particularly infectious, though Sells shows his range with the touching and emotional ‘It Means Beautiful’ (beautifully sung by Lucie Shorthouse). The one thing that must be noted is there are occasional echoes of his songs written for The Feeling, which can be jarring.
The songs and score and lifted even higher by the choreography of Kate Prince – songs like ‘Work of Art’ are given energy and character are really enjoyable, and this is supported by the dance ensembles’ great energy and tight dance moves.
The only flaw to the work (one that possibly would not be considered outside of the West End) were the scene transitions – these sometimes were possibly too long and also occasionally consisted of the lights going out and the cast moving the set around. On a West End stage, this is disappointing, however the piece must be viewed in context where many shows are enjoying longer runs which means a higher outlay whilst Jamie is currently only a limited run (something which will hopefully change.)
The cast are also amazing – John McCrea is a true find as Jamie, and he is truly at home as Jamie, comfortable twirling around in heels, but also able to create a real, flawed human on stage. Josie Walker is also great as his mother Margaret, especially in songs such as ‘If I Met Myself Again’, where she reminisces on her youth and the mistakes she has made (the songs itself feels very much like a Jooni Mitchell song). Also of note is Mina Anwar, who provides a lot of humour and heart as Ray, and she really underlines the message of the show: to be accepting and supportive.
Summary: A brand new musical that everyone should be talking about. A great cast, script and songs combine to make a must-see show. *****