Roll up for the show everybody has been talking about as it launches its UK tour, debuting at Salford’s Lowry Theatre with the real Jamie New and family attending the press night.
Everybody’s Talking About Jamie follows the story of Jamie New (Ivano Turco) as he embraces his inner drag queen persona and goes on a journey of self-discovery with his friends and family, eventually hoping to conquer his fears and go to the prom in his dress. The show was originally developed by Tom McRae, based on the true story of Jamie (a.k.a. Mimi Me), and became a musical movie in 2021 before renewing its tour. Tackling the hard-hitting realities of school bullies like Dean (Jordon Ricketts) and cruel fathers (Akshay St Clair), whilst simultaneously evoking constant laughter from its audience, the show is a whirlwind of emotions that’s sure to thrill all types of theatre lovers.
Having never seen the show or movie previously, I was eager to see what the show would have in store for me and what new earworms I’d have drumming around my head everyday and it certainly did not disappoint.
The curtains opened to a framed structure making up the backdrop of the Year 11 classroom, with the silhouettes of the band members tuning their instruments and a fierce ensemble dance routine introducing the catchiest motif of the show “And You Don’t Even Know It”. The song drums in the themes of fame and self-discovery that become key as Jamie and the other teens navigate the job industry and their identity in general. Notable standout songs included the titular “Everybody’s Talking About Jamie”, , “It Means Beautiful” (sung by Pritti played by Talia Palamathanan), and “He’s My Boy”. The latter, delivered with profound emotion by Jamie’s mother Margaret (played by Rebecca Mckinnis), truly showcased a remarkable talent that made the heart resonate.
Whilst some of the songs were extremely catchy and recycled with different meanings throughout, the only critique I could add is that other songs felt less climatic after powerful ballads or energetic sequences. By no means was this to do with the skill of the ensemble who were phenomenal (especially Turco’s Michael Jackson-esque smoothness); rather, some songs simply couldn’t match the success of others. However, each number achieved its goal of portraying genuine emotions and storytelling.
Classrooms morphed into houses featuring somber projections of Sheffield’s grey rooftops, complemented by a rotating set piece showcasing an adjoining kitchen and staircase. What I especially admired about the set design was the touch of red and yellow in the kitchen. These colors, reminiscent of Jamie’s signature red dress, heels, yellow accessories, and blonde hair, ensured his vibrant personality permeated every nook and cranny of the play.
The set seamlessly transitioned from houses to the chic drag fashion store, Victor’s Secret, and the backstage of the Legs Eleven drag club. It’s here that the audience is introduced to Hugo and his drag alter ego, Loco Chanelle, portrayed by John Partridge (whom we interviewed a few weeks prior to the show here), alongside other captivating drag acts. Partridge and Turco, in particular, exuded such energy and vigor that they vividly brought their characters to life. Their already authentic tales became even more grounded and palpable as Jamie draws lessons from a new father figure. In this segment, the musical masterfully strikes a balance between exploring stage fright and self-identity while delivering a consistent stream of gags, puns, and jokes that had the audience roaring in their seats.
Before the interval, the audience was left with a hauntingly beautiful image of Jamie after discovering his drag persona with the help of his friends, coming onto the stage before being projected across breezy show curtains. The symbology behind this image was so pure and pivotal to the story: Jamie blossoms in this moment from a terrified young man hiding his emotions to an excited and self-accepting beauty.
In the second half of the show, friends banded together, more humour brewed especially from the hilariously potty-mouthed Ray (Shobna Gulati), arguments ensued, and a prom was attended, but did Jamie get his happily ever after? You’ll have to watch this heartwarming and humorous spectacular to find out!
Make sure to catch Everybody’s Talking About Jamie between 7-17 September at The Lowry before it continues on its UK tour. It’s a party you won’t want to miss, so step out of the darkness and into the spotlight and join in with the chatter.