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Phil Willmott

Second Look: EVERYBODY’S TALKING ABOUT JAMIE at the Apollo Theatre

Back in November 2017 I reported that this high-spirited musical was the “perfect way to lift the gloom with a reminder of decent British humanity that celebrates the individual spirit”.

Everybody's Talking About Jamie Everybody’s Talking About Jamie – Layton Williams as Jamie, Hayley Tamaddon as Miss Hedge & class

However I also speculated that “it’s going to be a struggle for it to hold its own amongst more established musical theatre brands and it remains to be seen if occasional theatre goers will choose it over a trip to a Disney, Lloyd Webber or a Cameron Macintosh production”.

I needn’t have worried. Paying a return visit I was delighted to find that this popular musical about drag queen teen empowerment had a near full house on a rainy Tuesday night, a year and a half into its West End run. A very young audience too. How wonderful that so many school groups and young families choose this story of tolerance and inclusion for a West End night out. 

Layton Williams now plays the camp, exuberant Jamie, who, as I previously reported “is stuck in a grey Sheffield adolescence that offers few possibilities for the future beyond a job in manual labour - his career evaluation concludes that he should aspire to drive a fork lift truck.

But Jamie isn’t your ordinary school leaver - he’s openly gay, perfectly capable of facing up to the school bully and eventually shows that he’s not going to be bogged down by a miserable home life, a boorish absentee father and a system ill-equipped to deal with his individuality.

Jamie has his heart set on becoming a drag performer, and the first step is to attend his school prom in a dress. Supported by his emotional powerhouse of a mum, Margaret and sassy best friend, Pritti, who has her own battles to face in her Muslim family life, he embarks on his mission, assisted by a retired drag mentor”.

The cast has gained a few celebrities to keep it in the public eye. Comedian Shane Richie now plays the older drag queen (Until May 4th) and delivers a lovely, nuanced performance in and out of a frock.

Pop star Faye Tozer from the group Steps will play Jamie’s mum from May 6th. I’ve directed Faye and I know she’ll bring both soul and charisma to the role but until then you can see the excellent.

Rebecca Mckinnis providing an emotional heart to the show when she supports her son as he grows up and away from her.

It’s hard not to love the expressively exuberant Layton Williams in the title role. He certainly has the stage presence and singing and dancing skills to lead a West End musical but he does mumble the dialogue and a lot of the quieter scenes are inaudible. Any of the lyrics in the group numbers are also hard to make out, a shame, as I recall they’re quite witty.

Overseas visitors may also struggle to penetrate the thick Sheffield accent. My American guests had difficulty understanding a lot of the text.

It’s still fun, it’s still a great West End musical, the cast just need to work a little harder to send the dialogue and lyrics out to the audience.

Everybody's Talking About Jamie