A celebration of drag culture and growing up different...
Based on the real-life story of Jamie Campbell, a sixteen year old boy who dreamed of being a drag queen and attending his school prom in a dress, Everybody’s Talking About Jamie is a celebration of identity, self-expression and proving the doubters wrong. A party from the get go with real moments of emotion peppered throughout, this musical is full of heart and humour with an uplifting message that everyone can benefit from hearing.
Music, book and lyrics by Dan Gillespie Sells and Tom Macrae all flow together perfectly throughout the story, capturing all the highs and lows and delivering numbers to make you feel, and ones to sing out loud on the way home. Inspired by the documentary film Jamie: Drag Queen at 16 (available on BBC iPlayer), the story behind the creation of the musical is almost as impressive as the show itself.
As soon as Ivano Turco opens his mouth and starts to move, you know you’re in for a good time. The fourth actor to take on the titular role of Jamie New, Turco is captivating every moment he’s on stage, giving me goosebumps every time he begins to sing. Whether he’s learning to strut in killer red heels or feeling crushed by self-doubt, Turco captures the conflicting confidence and insecurity of pushing the boundaries as a young person.
The whole cast of characters feel completely real. Ray, the bargain-hunting potty mouth and family friend of Jamie’s, is played superbly by Shobna Gulati who truly feels like someone who will be knocking on your door offering discount chocolate bars. John Partridge plays an older queen who takes Jamie under his wing, playing both sides of the coin perfectly - the slightly jaded (but always compassionate) drag shop owner Hugo, and the fabulous queen Loco Chanelle (The Legend of Loco Chanelle and the Blood Red Dress).
Talia Palamathanan plays Jamie’s best friend Pritti, and delivers some of the most emotional numbers of the show - I was welling up at both of her solo numbers (Spotlight and It Means Beautiful). The other tear-jerkers are provided by Rebecca McKinnis as Jamie’s mum Margaret, performing heart-aching numbers lamenting the choices of her youth (If I Met Myself Again) and struggling to get the balance of raising her son up while protecting him from a world trying to bring him down (He’s My Boy).
The entire cast of Year 11s also need to be commended for their incredible, spot-on choreography (directed by Katie Prince). There’s not a move out of place, and the group dance numbers (And You Don’t Even Know It, Everybody’s Talking About Jamie) are an absolute joy to watch. Even resetting the stage feels like part of the dance, and everything flows together so smoothly you can really feel immersed in the story.
By the end of the show, it looks like there’s barely any member of the audience left in their seat, with a roaring standing ovation for this celebration of drag culture and growing up different. Everybody’s Talking About Jamie is a love letter to every ‘kid who came out wrong’, and a spark of hope that things can always get better with the right people around you.
Everybody’s Talking About Jamie plays at Nottingham's Theatre Royal until Saturday 30 September 2023.
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