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REVIEW: Everybody’s Talking About Jamie @ Lyceum Theatre

Words: Paul Szabo

Jamie is 16 and is not like his friends at school. His best friend wants to be a doctor, but he wants to be a drag queen. Raised by his mum in a single-parent family on one of Sheffield’s tougher estates, Jamie finds himself, and his alter ego, Mimi Me, with the help of fading drag queen, Hugo, and with the support of his ever doting mother and his best friend, Pritti. But Jamie’s difficult relationship with his dad dents Jamie’s confidence; and the school aren’t particularly enthused about the big question on everyone’s lips – namely, whether Jamie will go to the school prom, or whether Mimi Me will.

It seems that 5 years after premiering at The Crucible Theatre, everybody’s still talking about Jamie, as the show played to a packed house in Jamie’s spiritual home at Sheffield Theatres. For a touring production, the presentation of the show is spot on, with a simple but versatile set and a slick and polished look and feel, as it heads out on tour with a bold and fresh cast.

Leyton Williams (Bad Education) reprises his West End role as Jamie, and whilst his vocals were not the strongest, his portrayal of Jamie was deliciously delightful. Amy Ellen Richardson absolutely nails her two show-stopping numbers as Margaret, Jamie’s mother; and Sharon Phull was charming as Pritti. But it was Shane Richie who proved to be the biggest surprise of the night, balancing a measured performance as Hugo with a flamboyant turn as Loco Chanelle, his drag alter ego.

The strength of the show lies not just in the performances, but in the excellent writing and the superb score. Beautifully blending comedy and emotion, the story is one that easily balances the comedy with genuine feeling. ‘He’s My Boy‘ is nothing short of a torch song, and the more tender moments between Jamie and his mother nestle beautifully in the feel-good warmth of the sharp script. But there is also tremendous pop bubble-gum fun to be had with many of the musical numbers, and the choreography, characterisations and ensemble cast bring both the stage and the characters to life.

The show doesn’t re-tread the usual ground of someone struggling with their sexuality, nor about seeking acceptance from their peers. Jamie is out, proud and everyone in his life loves him, which provides a refreshing change to coming of age stories such as these. The struggle is with Jamie’s self-image, his self-belief and the impact of his absent and rejecting father; it is very much a story about what makes a family rather than focusing on the acceptance or otherwise of Jamie’s sexuality.

The touring production for 2022 brings with it a vivacious burst of fast-paced energy and the show remains as utterly joyful and triumphant as ever. I laughed, I cried and I cheered on multiple occasions over the show’s duration and the audience leap to their feet in approval at the show’s finale.

Everybody’s Talking About Jamie is at the Lyceum Theatre until 16th April 2022.

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