Everybody has been talking about Jamie for some time now…
It has been five years since the feel-good musical stormed into the West End in a blizzard of five-star reviews, sold-out performances and nightly standing ovations.
News it was coming to Aberdeen as part of a UK tour in 2020 made it one of the hottest tickets in the Granite City – until the pandemic dimmed the theatre lights.
Even its arrival at His Majesty’s Theatre this week was delayed by a day due to a shortage of HGV drivers.
But you know what? It was worth the wait.
Because Everybody’s Talking About Jamie is just the sort of show we need right now – the perfect antidote to the dark days we’ve been through and are still trying to put behind us.
It’s not just the earworm tunes – you’ll be humming Everbody’s Talking About Jamie in your head for days – or the big dance numbers that manage the neat trick of being subtly sublime – or even the showstopping songs, of which there are many.
Embracing the fabulous over the humdrum
It’s the message at the heart of this show about a 16-year-old Sheffield schoolboy realising his dreams of becoming a drag queen in the face of ignorance and bigotry.
It’s about embracing the fabulous over the humdrum, daring to be who you want to be no matter what the bigots say and, ultimately, accepting everyone for who they are.
Those are big messages – the sort that could set off a cliché klaxon – but Jamie avoids earnest preaching. This show is all about fun, laughter, joy and having a good night out.
It just so happens you come away feeling a bit better about humanity. No bad thing at the moment.
Often shows are dubbed as direct from the West End, but this production lives up to the billing.
It has Layton Williams as Jamie and Shane Richie as Hugo/Loco Channelle, who were both on stage in the London production.
They have an excellent chemistry together with Hugo – a once famous now fading drag queen – mentoring Jamie on his tentative steps into his glamorous world. A bit like Luke Skywalker and Obi Wan Kenobi, but with better make-up and heels.
Shane Richie is a delight
Layton is fabulous (you can say that Craig Revel-Horwood style if you like) as Jamie. He makes the transformation from school oddity to self-believing, bigot-beating hero absolutely convincing as well as flamboyantly warm and funny.
All of this while giving oomph to songs from the angst-ridden The Wall In My Head to the exuberant You Don’t Even Know It, as Jamie starts to discover himself.
Shane Richie does all of his heavy-lifting in the first act and his appearance shifts the show into high gear. He’s a delight as the owner of a clothes shop for drag queens – and former queen himself – who encourages Jamie to take his first steps into the glamorous world.
Mixing great comic timing and a full-throttle singing voice, he’s a powerful presence – especially in the act one closer, Over The Top, which he belts out in full drag glory.
Now, all those uplifting themes would be nothing without the bedrock they are built on – friendship and love.
The friendship comes with Jamie’s touching relationship with Pritti, clever and quiet and facing the same bigotry as Jamie, but for different reasons. Sharan Phull comes close at times to stealing the show, her petite frame housing a massive voice, which comes into its own in the haunting ballad It Means Beautiful.
Everybody’s Talking About Jamie offers joy
And the love part? That’s the golden thread that runs through the story, courtesy of the unstinting and unconditional love Jamie’s mum Margaret has for her son.
Amy Ellen Richardson shines in the role, which has some of the best songs in show – especially the huge My Man, Your Boy. I reckon there were a fair few mums blubbing over that one at HMT.
There are some quibbles. Jamie’s transformation into his creation of drag queen Mimi Me is never fully realised on stage. And the climactic moment when Jamie is being turned away from the prom for wearing a dress feels too hastily and easily resolved.
But that does nothing to detract from a brilliant musical that really does offer some much-needed joy, hope and love.
Everbody’s Talking About Jamie at His Majesty’s Theatre until Saturday. Tickets are still available from aberdeenperformingarts.com
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