This bold, dazzling and original musical bursts into life courtesy of the collective talents of director Jonathan Butterell and writers Dan Gillespie-Sells and Tom MacRae. Based on the real life story of Jamie Campbell, who wanted to be a Drag Queen at 16, Butterell and his talented team have brought the Sheffield working class to life in dynamic fashion. Whilst treading around heavy themes, Jamie is ultimately a coming-of-age story, as much about his relationship with his mother as it is friends, his enemies and his own demons. The songs fly and the lyrics bite.
This is a hugely entertaining production and I would defy anyone not to spend most of the time without a huge grin on their face. A mostly young cast, led by the note perfect John McCrea as Jamie, are near perfect throughout. There is comic relief provided by the excellent Mina Anwar and Charles Dale, but the more tender moments of the production are spared for the female vocalists. Josie Walker, as Jamie’s mum, encapsulates perfectly the hope and love of a mother for her child. Her solos are wrapped in emotion and delivered with aplomb. And Lucie Shorthouse as Pritti threatens to run away with the whole show. Her own story leans heavily upon the subtext of the production, and her rendition of “It Means Beautiful” is spellbinding. But this is, ultimately, all about Jamie… and whilst others try to steal away the limelight, the production soars thanks to the exceptional McCrea.
As a final word, the tone is excellent. What could have been heavy-handed or needlessly gritty in the wrong hands, emerges as something beautiful. This is a story about a boy who wants to wear a dress to his prom, and it is a triumph from start to finish. It deserves a wide audience and deserves to be labelled as nothing else but what it ultimately is – a bloody brilliant musical.
Review by Phill James
Everybody’s Talking About Jamie hits the West End this winter for a run at the Apollo Theatre. Venue information & tickets can be found here.