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Theatre Review: Everybody’s Talking About Jamie

So why is everybody talking about Jamie? Blackpool Social Club headed to the Blackpool Winter Gardens, to find out more about the musical retelling of the real life story of Jamie, drag queen at 16.

The Sheffield Theatres Production of Everybody’s Talking About Jamie arrived in Blackpool as part of its UK tour, with performances from Tuesday to Saturday this week.

From the pantomime dame to Dame Edna Everage, Danny La Rue, Lily Savage and Ru Paul, our culture is no stranger to the art of drag. Are we surprised that this is something that a young person may want to discuss as a viable option with their careers adviser in school? This is where our story begins, joining in a year 11 careers lesson with the high-energy opening number And You Don’t Even Know It with contemporary choreography that is executed with perfect synchronisation. By the end of this number, it’s clear that we are in safe hands with an excellent ensemble cast.

There are strong vocal performances throughout lead expertly by Ivano Turco in the title role of Jamie New, bringing the sass and vulnerability you would expect from this character and managing it all in the highest pair of red heels.

As well as wanting to be a drag queen, Jamie also decides that he wants to wear a dress to the school prom. The show takes us on a rollercoaster of emotions – one minute laughing and joking with friends at school and the next seeing Jamie rejected by his father as ‘disgusting’. It shows how Jamie is accepted and included by the girls at school, as they discuss fashion and take selfies. But we also see the contrast of the school bully, who is constantly calling him names and trying to bring him down. The full cast are incorporated well, with additions of small background interactions to help set the scene. This also allowed for a wonderful moment of harmony and percussion utilising cups in the canteen (just like Anna Kendrick in Pitch Perfect).

The show ends like all good high school movies – at the prom. But does he get to wear a dress or will the complaints to the school ruin the day?

Shobna Gulati (who may be more recognisable from her work in Dinner Ladies and Coronation Street) reprises her role as Ray, best friend to Jamie’s mum. She is clearly very familiar with this role and makes the most of the comedy timing of her one-liners, bringing some light relief to the more serious moments. Rebecca McKinnis also provides some tender moments in her portrayal of Jamie’s mum, with a particularly heart-felt performance of the ballad, He’s My Boy, which brought a tear to the eye of some audience members.

In comparison to the movie version on Amazon Prime, it was exciting to see how this story was brought to life on stage. There is a versatile set that changes swiftly from classroom desks to a garden wall, creating slick and seamless transitions by cast members in school uniforms or black hoodies, which all helped to maintain the pace. There was also clever use of projection and lighting, which enhanced the simplicity of the set. It also made a pleasant change to be able to see the musicians, who appeared in silhouette at the back of the stage.

Miss Hedge, the careers teacher, is confidently portrayed by Hayley Tamaddon who shows she can sing, rap and dance with the ensemble. No stranger to drag, having previously portrayed Tick in the UK tour of Priscilla Queen of the Desert, Darren Day takes on the dual roles of Hugo and Loco Chanelle. His powerful vocals remind us of his musical theatre pedigree.

The show ends like all good high school movies – at the prom. But does he get to wear a dress or will the complaints to the school ruin the day? You will have to head on down to the Opera House to find out.

Tuesday evening culminated in a well-deserved standing ovation – a trend that is likely to continue throughout the week given the calibre of the performance. Put some glitter in the grey of your November evening and go find out why Everybody is Talking About Jamie for yourself.

Everybody’s Talking About Jamie is at The Winter Gardens Opera House, Blackpool until Saturday 25th November

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