Andy Howells reviews Tom McCrae and Dan Gillespie’s musical, Everybody’s Talking About Jamie starring Ivano Turco, Georgina Hagen, Shobna Gulati and John Partridge.
Everybody’s Talking About Jamie has returned to Wales Millennium Centre and although there have been a few changes since this show last played the Centre in November 2021, the show remains as fabulous and feelgood as ever.
Tom McCrae and Dan Gillespie’s musical based on a true-life story, for those who still haven’t seen it, follows 16-Year-Old Jamie New, who lives on a council estate in Sheffield. When told by his teacher he has a career ahead of him as a fork-lift truck driver, Jamie is worried a about his future, particularly as he has a secret dream to become a drag queen. With support from his best-friend Pritti, his loving mum, Margaret and her friend Ray, Jamie sets out to follow his dream, despite an onslaught of opposition from teachers, classmates, and his own father.
Slick dance choreography from the ensemble cast paired with stunning vocal performances on And You Don’t Even Know It & Work of Art drive the feelgood nature of this musical (look out for Luca Moscardini’s summersault, so natural, yet so brilliant). Keeping order in the school scenes is Hayley Tamaddon’s stern Miss Hedge who is also prone to bust several moves alongside the pupils.
Georgina Hagen plays Jamie’s mum Margaret with conviction and gives wonderful performances of If I Met Myself Again and He’s My Boy, the former, accompanied by a dance routine reflecting Margaret’s youth from two of the ensemble, is one of the most heartfelt musical theatre moments in recent years. It’s also great fun to see Shobna Gulati return as Margaret’s no-nonsense friend Ray who lightens some of the stories more dramatic moments, much to the audience delight.
John Partridge brings the role of Jamie’s mentor, Hugo / Loco Chanelle to life, making the part of an aging drag queen both identifiable and believable, while Talia Palamathanan gives an inspiring portrayal of Jamie’s friend Pritti, especially when standing up to Jordan Rickett’s bully, Dean.
Ivano Turco presents passion, energy, and innocence in Jamie’s character. As the teenager blooms with confidence, it makes his reactionary stumbles, when faced with predicaments such as rejection, bullying and lack of confidence all the more beautiful and believable. There are no safer hands for Jamie new to presently be in than Ivano Turco’s.
Alongside the magical performances is a fabulous set that moves between the school classroom and Jamie’s home with ease. Plus there are some wonderful and occasionally surprising video screen projections, (check out Jamie’s entrance as Mimi Me at the end of Act 1). There is also the subtle but effective presence of the live band silhouetted through school windows, as effective now as when I first saw the show in the West End five years ago.
The standing ovation for the ensemble cast at the climax of Monday evening’s presentation proved Everybody Still Loves Jamie. While its important messages of individuality and acceptance remain strong, so does its ability to lift our spirits.
Everybody’s Talking About Jamie continues at Wales Millennium Centre until October 28. Visit the website for ticket details.