Jamie is 16 and is not like his friends at school. His best friend wants to be a doctor, but he wants to be a drag queen. Raised by his mum in a single parent family on one of Sheffield’s tougher estates, Jamie finds himself, and his alter ego, Mimi Me, with the help of fading drag queen, Hugo, and with the support of his ever doting mother and her best friend. But Jamie’s difficult relationship with his dad dents Jamie’s confidence; and the school aren’t particularly enthused about the big question on everyone’s lips – namely, whether Jamie will go to the school prom, or whether Mimi Me will. ★★★★★
Writer Tom MacRae’s script is beautifully written, packing into it a wealth of instantly likeable and relatable characters, plenty of laugh out loud one liners and genuine heart. He gets the story across by celebrating the protagonist rather than victimising him and Jamie’s journey is well paced, moving and entertaining. Complementing the book perfectly are the musical numbers written by Dan Gillespie-Sells, which, quite honestly, doesn’t have a bad song amongst them. The show opens with “You Don’t Even Know It”, a bubbly piece of contemporary pop and each and every song that follows is a delight. Balancing out the upbeat numbers are some tender ballads, including “It Means Beautiful” and “My Man, My Son”, the latter quite literally bringing a tear to my eye. Kate Prince’s choreography fuses multiple styles of dance, from street dance to ballet, with energetic, fresh and uplifting routines, whilst Jonathan Butterall’s steady direction seamlessly blends comedy with pathos and makes the most of his well-rounded and diverse cast.
With such well written characters, you need a solid cast to bring them to life. John McRea is delicious in his portrayal of Jamie, vacillating between oozing self-confidence and brimming with self-doubt, most of which was done whilst strutting around in a pair of heels so large that even RuPaul would shy away from them. Josie Walker gives a touchingly understated performance as Jamie’s Mum and belted out her two main numbers with a powerful voice which seemed to come out of nowhere; and she was complimented well by Mina Anwar’s comic performance as her best friend, Lee.
Everybody’s Talking About Jamie is a coming of age story which is more reflective of today’s society than most of the genre. Gone is the stigma of sexuality, and gone is the major struggle for acceptance by his peers. Jamie is embraced by his supportive mother and loved by his friends at school. The story is more about Jamie’s internal struggle and his relationships with family, rather than it being “him against the world”. This refreshing approach makes for a more intimate and focussed narrative and one which genuinely pulls you in. It has been a while since I have seen an audience get so much behind a show, with cheers of support echoing around the theatre at key points in the story, which can only be a testament to the quality of the production.
Everybody’s Talking About Jamie is everything a musical should be – well-crafted with instantly catchy songs, makes you laugh, cry and cheer and amounts to a thoroughly entertaining piece of theatre with a strong heart at its centre. Jamie is not to be missed, and is simply uplifting, joyous and inspirational.
Everybody’s Talking About Jamie is currently playing at The Crucible Theatre, Sheffield until 25th February 2017. Visit www.sheffieldtheatres.co.uk or call the box office on 0114 249 6000
In between visits to the theatre, watching films, photography, walking, scuba diving and singing (badly); Paul writes for TheGayUK.