EVERYBODY'S TALKING ABOUT JAMIE
Director: Jonathan Butterell
Screenwriter: Tom McRae (book & lyrics) and Dan Gillespie Sells (music)
Runtime: 164 mins., including a 20-minute interval
Australian release date: 24 November 2018
Previewed at: Dendy Newtown, Sydney, on 19 November 2018.
Direct from the stage of the Apollo Theatre on London’s Shaftesbury Avenue, winner of three WhatsOnStage Awards and nominated for five Oliviers, Tom McRae’s and Dan Gillespie Sells’ musical Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, directed by Jonathan Butterell, is the latest Brit ‘live’ theatrical production to grace our screens. The UK press reviews have been unanimously positive - it was described in Time Out as “A joyous punch in the air about following your dreams and being yourself,” by The Times as “… a blast of fresh air,” and The Financial Times said it “Sweeps you away on a tide of mischief, warmth and exuberance.” This is definitely a West End musical not to be missed.
Headed by the charismatic and incredibly talented John McCrea in the role of Jamie New, a 16-year-old schoolboy living on a council estate in Sheffield with his devoted mum, Margaret (Josie Walker), Everybody’s Talking About Jamie is inspired by a true story about a very brave gay lad who wants to be a… drumroll… drag queen. Out and proud, needless to say Jamie doesn't quite fit in at school, although he’s not without friends, in particular Pritti Pasha (Lucie Shorthouse). Pritti’s a bit of an outsider herself: she’s clever, studies and wants to be a doctor. Oh, and she’s a Moslem with a Hindi name! Margaret is supportive of her son’s ambition, even giving him a bright red pair of high heels for his birthday, and her BFF Ray (Shobna Gulati) supports them both in their dreams of happiness. Jamie’s other wish is to wear a dress to the school prom, the end of year dance, but his bête noir, careers teacher Miss Hedges (Australia’s very own Tamsin Carroll), flat out refuses to let him attend if that is his plan. What’s a boy/girl to do?
John McCrea is simply amazing as Jamie; he’s previously had only a small speaking role in God’s Own Country, so this appears to be his debut as a lead actor. It’s a big part but he eats it up, making Jamie very camp but remaining authentic and engendering empathy with the boy’s situation. He sings and dances with great skill and his voice has good range. Josie Walker has a beautiful, clear voice - her rendition of He’s My Boy is a high-point of the musical. The ensemble cast of 24 is, without exception, exceptional. They are all triple-threats, being able to sing, dance and act with equal ability, and they have to do a lot of all three. There are around a dozen-and-a-half terrific songs in Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, all written by the lead singer/songwriter of UK rock band The Feeling, Dan Gillespie Sells, and many of the songs are memorable, the kind you can hum on the way home from the cinema. An excellent eight-piece band backs up the singers and Kate Prince’s choreography brings exuberance and excitement to the stage. The book by Tom McRae is often hilarious and his lyrics risqué. You gotta love drag queens called Sandra Bollock, Tray Sophisticay, Laika Virgin and Loco Chanelle! The set is quite spare at times and makes clever use of light boxes that can become desks or walls or a host of other items, and the production is very well shot for the cinema, with lots of camera movement and close-ups of the on-stage action.
Be warned, unlike theatre productions filmed under the National Theatre Live banner, Everybody’s Talking About Jamie starts immediately, with no introduction, interviews or explanatory mini-docs, so don’t be late. You won’t want to miss a second of this gay Billy Elliot. It’s positively delightful, enough to give one hope, considering it was only in 2000 that the story of a boy who wanted to dance was considered ground-breaking and now, here we are in 2018, celebrating a boy who wants to wear a dress to his school dance.
PS. If you’re fortunate enough to be planning an imminent trip to London, it’ll be on stage at the Apollo until 6 April 2019.