Recently, I was talking to a graduate about their life. At 18, they had decided they wanted to be a midwife. They took out all the requisite student loans, went to University, studied for three years and two years after passing the course and graduating as a midwife, they are a chartered accountant. It just goes to show that your mid-teens is not necessarily the time to decide where you want your future career to lie. Unless you are someone with a definite sense of where you want to go and where you want to end up that is. Then you are like the hero of Everybody’s Talking About Jamie which has opened in Wimbledon this week as part of its UK tour.
16-year-old Jamie New (Adam Taylor/Layton Williams) knows what he wants to do when he leaves school. Unlike most of his class, Jamie doesn’t dream of going to college or university. He doesn’t want to work in a shop or office, and he definitely doesn’t want to do something humdrum and ordinary. As Jamie reveals to his classmates and teacher Miss Hedge (Lara Denning), he wants to be a performer. In fact, he wants to be more than just a performer, Jamie wants to be a drag queen. He is supported by his mother Margaret (Amy Ellen Richardson) and his best friend Pritti (Sharan Phull). Receiving an amazing present for his birthday, Jamie’s confidence grows, and he reveals himself to the rest of the school, putting himself in the path of bully boy Dean (George Sampson). Undeterred, Jamie heads off to Victor’s Secret where he meets the owner Hugo (Shane Richie) who takes the lad under his wing and starts him on the road to fulfilling his drag dream.
I originally saw this show in the West End, with most of the same cast and whilst I love the show itself, I really disliked the character of Jamie and his ‘struggles’ about attending prom in a dress. Don’t get me wrong, if Jamie was trans I would have no problem. But he isn’t. He is just someone that wants to go to prom dressed in the costume/uniform of the profession he wants to enter when he leaves school. None of the other pupils do this. Nobody arrives dressed as a firefighter, nurse, police officer etc. So, while Jamie does suffer homophobic attacks and discrimination in his life, the main business about attending prom just to my eyes makes him a very selfish, attention seeker. However, having seen the show again, whilst some of my criticisms are still valid, I have got to know Jamie more and can in some ways understand more of why he is the way he is. More importantly, while I do think he treats certain people exceptionally badly – and called him a very rude name under my breath at one point – I have much more sympathy for him and can share in those moments of happiness and success in his life. Throughout the show, Miss Hedge keeps telling the pupils in Year 11 to keep it real, and for once I’m going to disagree with a teacher. Forget real, be like Jamie and become the work of art that you know you are inside.
Phew, having got that out of the way, let’s talk about the production. The book and lyrics by Tom MacRae along with Dan Gillespie Sells’ music are really first-rate. There are some truly cracking musical numbers in the show, aside from opening number “And You Don’t Even Know It” which does a lot to establish just who Jamie is, there were also two stand out songs for me, “It Means Beautiful” and the tear-jerking “He’s My Boy”. Not only were these songs amazing, but they were performed beautifully by Sharan Phull and Amy Ellen Richardson respectively. Jamie obviously is the centre of attention throughout and, at the performance I saw, Adam Taylor was truly superb in the role. He pouted, minced, vogued and just was the 16-year-old boy with deep-seated issues who emerged butterfly-like into the spotlight. While on the subject of the cast, let’s not forget the wonderful performance of Sasha Latoya as Jamie’s mum’s best friend and confidant Ray and the wonderful Shane Richie who gives it his all in the role of Hugo/Loco Chanelle.
Anna Fleischle’s set exactly replicates the West End version and with such a talented cast Kate Prince’s choreography works as well on Wimbledon High Street as it does on Shaftesbury Avenue. Yes, this may be a touring production, but it definitely doesn’t feel like it. Everybody’s Talking About Jamie is at Wimbledon until Saturday, and if you can get a ticket, you should because going by the conversations around me on my train home, it really is going to be the only thing that anyone talks about this week.
Review by Terry Eastham
Starring Shane Richie and for this performance, (and all other weekday performances at Wimbledon) Adam Taylor as Jamie.
Jamie New is sixteen and lives on a council estate in Sheffield. Jamie doesn’t quite fit in. Jamie is terrified about the future. Jamie is going to be a sensation. With an original score of catchy pop tunes by lead singer-songwriter of The Feeling, Dan Gillespie Sells and writer Tom MacRae (Doctor Who), this brand-new musical will have everybody talking about Jamie for years to come.
The UK tour of Everybody’s Talking About Jamie stars Layton Williams (9 April) and Adam Taylor (5-8 April) as Jamie New, Amy Ellen Richardson as his Mum, Margaret, Shane Richie as Hugo/Loco Chanelle, Sasha Latoya as Ray, Lara Denning as Miss Hedge, George Sampson as Dean and Sharan Phull as Pritti Pasha. The cast also includes Richard Appiah-Sarpong (Cy), Simeon Beckett (Levi), Kazmin Borrer (Vicki), Alex Hetherington (Swing), Lisa-Marie Holmes (Understudy), Ryan Hughes (Mickey), Cameron Johnson (Jamie’s Dad), Jodie Knight (Fatimah), Garry Lee (Sandra Bollock) John Paul McCue (Laika Virgin), Talia Palamathanan (Becca), Rhys Taylor (Tray Sophisticay) and Emma Robotham-Hunt (Swing).
Music by Dan Gillespie Sells
Book and Lyrics by Tom MacRae
Sensitivity: Internal Use
From an idea by Jonathan Butterell
Directed by Matt Ryan from original direction by Jonathan Butterell
Design by Anna Fleischle
Choreography by Kate Prince
Lighting design by Lucy Carter
Sound design by Paul Groothuis
Casting by Will Burton
Musical Supervisor Theo Jamieson
Musical Director Ben Holder
Video Design Luke Halls
New Wimbledon Theatre, Wimbledon
5-9 April 2022