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Everybody's Talking About Jamie

Dan Gillespie Sells, Tom Macrae, Jonathan Butterell

Sheffield Theatres Production

The Lowry, Salford Quays, September 7-17, 2023; 2 hrs 40 mins

(also Grand Theatre Leeds (November 13); Winter Gardens Blackpool (November 20); Venue Cymru Llandudno (November 27); Lyceum Sheffield (April 8, 2024); Liverpool Empire (April 22); Hull New Theatre (June 17); Alhambra Bradford (July 1)

The Everybody's Talking About Jamie tour company.  Pics: Matt Crockett
The Everybody's Talking About Jamie tour company. Pics: Matt Crockett

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The diva has been central to musical stage works since 19th-Century opera, reversing the role of woman as passive, silent object. Musical theatre in its golden age concentrated on women as romantic partners, but still with the diva idea intact.

And then there was Jamie. In Everybody's Talking About Jamie, never has a diva shone more brightly than in the story of a boy in a dress who was born to impress.

The beauty of this story is its humility, its glamourous realism and its universality. With a new kind of hero at its centre, we’re all invited to reflect on how we could burst through social rejections and limitations and how we might take each other along with us.

One key relationship here might appear unlikely: the unshakable friendship between Pritti, a young hijabi who aspires to a place at Cambridge and a career in medicine, and Jamie, who aspires to be fabulous and have a career in drag. And yet Pritti’s open-heartedness and her own cultural struggles cast her, along with Jamie, as an outsider in a friendship of mutual support. If it seems almost unbelievable, we’re invited to remember that these characters are teens fighting against a world that wants to close them in, and in teenagers all things are possible. A highlight of the show is Pritti’s song It Means Beautiful, as she tells Jamie what his name means in Arabic and the importance of them both staying true to themselves. Talia Palamathanan gives a perfect performance, impressively retaining Pritti’s Yorkshire accent throughout the song while maintaining its dignity and simple beauty.

Jamie’s other central relationship is with his mum, Margaret, which also offers emotional realism, and we see a woman who would sacrifice everything for her son. Rebecca McInnis gives us two great numbers. In If I Met Myself Again she looks back at her younger self, stunningly represented by contemporary dancers in a powerful pas de deux. Later Margaret ably belts out He’s my Boy, a love song for Jamie by his mother.

While Jamie's natural camp and towering red heels of course steal the show, the strength of this piece is its relationships and its three-dimensional characters, unique but universal, and a very real portrayal of the trials of being sixteen in a modern multicultural northern city.

On that note, choreographer Kate Prince captures the unrestrained vitality of Year 11 en masse in all its glory. But the final word goes to Ivano Turco as Jamie, beautiful as a drag queen, as a diva and just as a boy.

Show and tour info and tickets here

Everybody's Talking About Jamie full company


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