Review: Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff

Everybody’s Talking About Jamie is a really incredible musical with themes of identity, beauty, understanding and friendship, all handled with meaning, sensitivity and fun. 

Sixteen Year Old Jamie lives on a council estate in Sheffield and when told by his teacher he has a career ahead of him as a fork-lift truck driver, he is worried a about his future, particularly as he has a secret dream to be a drag queen.

With support from his best-friend Priti, his mum, Margaret and her friend Ray, Jamie sets out to follow his dream, despite an onslaught of opposition from teachers, classmates and Jamie’s own father.

Layton Williams stars as Jamie New in Everybody’s Talking About Jamie at Wales Millennium Centre Photo by Matt Crockett

I last saw Tom McCrae and Dan Gillespie’s musical based on Jamie’s true-life story during its West-End run in the summer of 2019. A lively presentation of music and dance with a strong storyline all made an impact.

Now, returning to it as a student, Everybody’s Talking About Jamie feels very real to me. While the school scenario is authentic, the characters, including Miss Hedge and the students are very realistic. Every scene at Mayfield School seems like something that I could see, or have seen, happening in my day to day school-life. Certain scenes have also been updated to include references to the pandemic, adding further to the productions authenticity.

Layton Williams Stars as Jamie on UK Tour

Layton Williams (whom I previously saw on the West-End run) combines magnificence and depth as Jamie New. Watching how affected Jamie is after being insulted by his father, early on, and later school bully, Dean is truly tragic. Jamie’s feelings about his appearance and how others perceive him are very relatable to a lot of the target audience and a really powerful theme to follow. How Jamie ultimately overcomes the obstacles are handled respectfully and realistically, giving us an appropriate close to that part of the story.

Everybody’s Talking About Jamie also follows challenges faced by others in his life, including his best friend Pritti Pasha. Sharan Phull displays strong character development in her portrayal of a brilliant student who, with Jamie’s support and influence is able to face her bullies and inspire confidence not just for herself, but others.

Amy Ellen Richardson’s portrayal of Jamie’s mother, Margaret, wins the audience over, not only because she appears to care a lot more about her son than herself, (a stark contrast to the father who neglects and never supports Jamie) but also for her strong spirit through difficult times.Miss Richardson’s solo music numbers were also among some of the shows highlights. Lending support is Shobna Gulati as her strong willed friend with a heart of gold, Ray who softens some of the musicals more confrontational moments with her humourous outlook on life.

Lara Denning and Layton Williams star in the UK Tour of Everybody’s Talking About Jamie Photo by Matt Crockett

Rhys Taylor (standing in for Shane Richie) turned out a magnificently flamboyant portrayal of Jamie’s drag queen mentor, Hugo aka Loco Chanelle while maintaining the grounded sensitivity the role requires.

Lara Denning’s portrayal of the world weary Miss Hedge is believable, fed up of her life as a put upon careers teacher, but coming to life with vibrancy as a disco diva during her music numbers. I also loved to hate George Sampson portrayal as school bully, Dean, a character that has greater depth once the layers of his bigotry are stripped away and demonstrating beautifully that he too can also embrace change.

Jamie – A “Powerful and Moving Musical”

The set is consistently appropriate and incredible at helping us better understand the characters. If you didn’t get the point from the opening scene, seeing Jamie’s birthday covered in pastel colours really helps us get to know him. Another outstanding scene is Pritti’s bedroom themed around Van Gogh’s ‘A Starry Night’ is consistent with how she’s previously expressed an interest in art.

The musical’s closing moments reflected the energy and enthusiasm from the cast, musicians and audience throughtout the show evoking a party atmosphere that I’m sure many of us did not want to end.

The ensemble cast of the UK Tour of Everybody’s Talking About Jamie which plays Cardiff’s Wales Millennium Centre until November 20.

Everybody’s Talking About Jamie succeeds to be a powerful and moving musical, respectfully handling it’s themes. I really loved this musical when I saw it in London, I adore it here in Wales. If you need something uplifting and “New” then go and find out why Everybody’s Talking About Jamie.

Published by Thomas Howells

The doctor said I should be in hospital for all the blood I was losing, but instead I went to drama practice

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