[AD – Press tickets] These tickets were complimentary in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
It’s the Jamie show! He’s a hit, legit and he’s coming up at Royal & Derngate for a fabulous time!
Everybody’s Talking About Jamie is the phenomenon musical inspired by the 2011 television documentary Jamie: Drag Queen at 16, where the musical follows a 16-year-old teenager named Jamie New, as he overcomes prejudice, beats the bullies and ultimately shines as he becomes a drag queen.
The musical has been a HUGE success in the West End, but has now ventured on a UK tour and has come to Northampton to slay the day away!
The cast was superbly diverse on stage, but also the storyline covered a lot of diverse issues such as sexuality, race, abandonment, LGTB+ rights, bullying and much more. The show has everything going for it and has a great mixture of light, funny, emotional, comedic and sassy moments.
It should also be noted and praised that, although the original inspired story was set in 2011, they have managed to take the story to modern-day with the use of iPhones, Snapchat filters and the use of the word ‘hashtag’ so it can relate to all demographics.
The show had several set designs to integrate and change, but this is done swiftly and with ease going from the dreary school building, in the suburban town of Sheffield to Jamie’s home.
I like how the school tables also changed to a temporary light upstage as well as a brick wall – cleverly designed.
I really enjoyed the choreography in this show too, which was a mixture of urban, street and contemporary which was very good. I felt the movement of emotion during Magaret’s solo ‘If I Met Myself Again’ whilst two of the ensemble did a touching contemporary movement piece behind to reflect the story.
My only slight disappointment was over the beginning song number ‘And You Don’t Even Know It’, which to me, is the key number of the whole show.
Unfortunately, it was hard to hear what Jamie was singing about, whether this was due to the mixing levels with the music not being quite right, or a diction issue. I couldn’t make out the lyrics, which makes me wonder how others in the audience perceived it.
Throughout the show, the mixing and the rest of the songs seemed to improve as the show went on. And luckily this song was reprised, which made up for the beginning.
Jamie New, was played by Layton Williams, who revisits the role after having a stint as Jamie in the West End. I felt nostalgic watching him, as I remember watching him as a young boy in Billy Elliot at the Victoria Palace Theatre in London.
Since then, he truly has grown up and continues to glow on stage and I couldn’t think of a more perfectly suited role for him as Jamie – and those red heels were iconic!
I sensed a bit of nervous energy at the beginning of the show, whether this was first night nerves or a character choice, but as the show progressed, Layton was outstanding in the role and truly took over the stage with his star quality.
He’s able to play all types of emotions, from his determination to be seen and heard, to more touching moments with best friend, Pritti. It was honestly, a true delight to watch him shine on the stage!
Shane Richie, who played Drag Queen shop owner Hugo by day, then legendary Killer Queen Drag Queen, Loco Chanelle by night. Two words: My GOODNESS! I have no words.
We have been so used to seeing cheeky chap Richie on stage, but he’s proven he’s a much more diverse actor than anticipated.
He brought a whole new persona to the role, his voice perfectly suits the character’s songs and you can tell he enjoys dressing up as a woman a bit too much – a great addition to this already talent-rich cast!
But who could also forget the three drag queens – they are all well worth a mention too. I was getting full RuPaul vibes and loved the banter and comedy between them in the dressing room just before the end of Act 1.
I feel one performance well worth a credit and mention was Amy Ellen Richardson, who played Jamie’s mum, Margaret New. Her story as the mother of the boy who wants to be a Drag Queen and does everything to support him, to me, was just as important to highlight.
She would have touched many hearts in the audience that evening who could relate to being a single mother, just trying to do her best by her son.
On top of that, she hands down had the best singing voice of the night where she drew the audience to tears singing ‘He’s My Boy’ where she even received an early-round of applause before the song ended – well deserved!
Other supporting roles worth mentioning is Shobna Gulati, who played the potty-mouthed best friend of Margaret New and almost fatherly/motherly figure to Jamie, Ray.
I wasn’t quite expecting just how loud and brash she would be, but I loved it. She brought a sense of Northern realism to the show and enjoyed her joke about Paris Hilton’s Aldi lipstick!
George Sampson, who played bully Dean Paxton made me hate him so much, I loved him. He had a strong stage presence and was sure of his role as the homophobic bully. He has strong acting skills and you grow to kind of like him at the end when Jamie holds his hand out to him in forgiveness.
Another strong singer and actress of the night was Sharan Phull, who played the shy, timid, Pritti Pasha – she touches on some real religious and race issues, which is what makes this show incredibly diverse and her friendship with Jamie was particularly sweet.
Their chemistry on stage was obvious. She also had such a pretty voice too!
I really appreciated the script where the two characters are talking about why Jamie dresses as a woman and whether he wanted to be a girl, or if it was for something sexual.
It’s topics and discussions like this, which should be highlighted more in modern-day theatre to educate audiences.
It was honestly the biggest standing ovation I have seen in the history of watching shows in the Derngate auditorium. I have never seen so much love for the cast on stage and for the show itself.
It was also a delight to have Tom MacRae, the writer of the show, grace us with his presence on stage where he gave a touching speech about his roots in Northampton (born and bred) and how he once dreamt about having a show on the Derngate stage and he’s only gone and done that.
Overall, this show will make you go away and feel like you can do anything and be anyone you want to be. And that, in today’s society, is a hugely important message for everyone to take away.
If you’re looking for a feelgood show that will make you laugh, cry, feel optimistic and shout ‘yaaasss Queen!’ then you need to head down to Royal & Derngate this week. You won’t stop talking about Jamie after you leave!
Everybody’s Talking About Jamie is at Royal & Derngate until Saturday 14th March. Get tickets here.