- United Kingdom Theatre Critic
If you're from the UK and a musical theatre fan, then unless you've been hiding under a rug, you'll know everybody IS talking about Jamie. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to fit a trip to London to see this highly praised musical, however, thanks to More 2 Screen, Everybody's Talking About Jamie, was broadcast into my local cinema this evening (Thursday 5th July 2018). Did this musical live up to the hype?
Everybody's Talking About Jamie is based on a true story, following Jamie New, who is sixteen and lives on a council estate in Sheffield. Jamie doesn't quite fit in at school, he is terrified about his future, but little does he know, Jamie is going to be a sensation.
John McCrea as Jamie is incredible, he owns the stage with the power and energy he brings. His comic timing is flawless, I was in stitches all the way through this musical, and it was almost always because of his perfect timing of the dialogue. His representation of a character that is part of the LGBT community was also perfect, that is definitely one of the beautiful aspects of this production, there is no limitations, they let each character be who want to be, and John definitely embraces this in his characterization of Jamie. Also, singing (with an amazing voice) AND dancing in heels? And not to mention those pirouettes, IN HEELS! John McCrea is definitely the star of this show, he brings so much and takes the audience on Jamie's rollercoaster of a journey but leaving them craving more Jamie by the end.
Josie Walker gives a stunning performance as Margaret New, the realism that Josie gives to this character is simply beautiful. You really do feel the love she has for Jamie, and the desperation she has for him to succeed in life. The arguments we see between her and Jamie's Dad (Ken Christiansen) are very heated but we see the beauty of Margaret’s humanity shine through. Josie's performance of He's My Boy is heartbreaking enough to make the strongest members of the audience crumble. Margaret Campbell's accepting and loving nature is portrayed sublimely by Josie Walker, the audience fall in love with her, just as much as they fall in love with Jamie.
Shobna Gulati is brilliant as Ray, I remember Shobna as Sanita in Coronation Street, but this performance really did surprise me. She represented a bystander who was watching Jamie's life unfold, right enough, she did get involved and wasn't afraid to speak her mind. I love the sass that Shobna Gulati gave the character, it helped add power and also give Jamie even more of a parent figure to inspire him to live the life he wants. And her performance of Limited Edition Prom Night Special was so fun and uplifting.
Tasmin Carroll played Miss Hedge, Jamie's teacher who feels that he needs to be more realistic with his life choices. I absolutely loved this portrayal, there is such uncertainty with how we feel about this character at first, as you feel a teacher would be very accepting. Tasmin takes Miss Hedge to the limit, giving her a professional demeanor, however with a bigoted undertone. There is definitely some great comedy moments in there as well, mainly a certain scene with penciled on eyebrows. But Tasmin's vocal performing is great, she features in some of the shows musical highlights, Work of Art plus And You Don't Even Know It, the latter number she actually raps in, seamlessly. Tasmin's performance in this musical is great.
Lucie Shorthouse as Pritti Pasha, is outstanding, her representation of the Muslim community, is one which is much needed, as much as diversity is at an all-time high within the UK's theatres, I feel that the characters have not given an accurate portrayal of the real issues people within these communities are facing. However, with Pritti's story, there is no filter we see upfront the real struggles these people are going through. And Lucie is the perfect actress to tackle these issues, the way she opens up and becomes vulnerable to the audience to see the struggles that Pritti is going through, is so daring and raw. Lucie's acting ability is so natural and believable, the audience relates with her pain. Lucie's vocal technique while singing is impeccable, It Means Beautiful is one of the most emotional songs featured and this is purely down to Lucie's performance.
Phil Nichol is absolutely fabulous and hilarious as Hugo Battersby, guiding Jamie with a brilliant performance of The Legend of Loco Chanelle. The only fault I could actually point out was his accent wandered a few times, however apart from that, his performance was brilliant. Also, Alex Anstey as Laika Virgin, James Gillan as Tray Sophisticay and Daniel Jacob as Sandra Bollock (love it), were all so fabulously on point as the drag queens that featured within this diverse piece of brilliant.
Ken Christiansen, made us hate Jamie's dad with his no mercy delivery of his lines. As much as the dialogue was brutally honest, Ken gave out the dialogue with no apology, which really made it apparent that Jamie's dad is an arsehole. This is probably the most hated character on in the west end right now, and it's all down to Ken's brilliant characterization. Luke Baker also gave us a character to partly hate in the shape of Dean Paxton, as at points he was shocking and annoying, but by the end it was clear this was a young male, lapping up the dream of school popularity, it was a rather good side story, and Luke really did well in making this character three dimensional, it was a good portrayal.
There is a strong ensemble in this production where each individual has moments on stage which is not usual. The ensemble is make up of Courtney Bowman as Fatimah, Jordan Cunningham as Sayid, Daniel Davids as Levi, Ryan Hughes as Mickey, Harriet Payne as Bex, Shiv Rabheru as Cy, Lauran Rae as Becca and Kirstie Skivington as Vicki. All of these actors carry a huge weight of energy and passion into this musical and work splendidly together.
Jonathan Butterell is a brilliant director who emphasizes some of the realism of this story and manages to blend that into some of the bigger numbers. There is a very good balance in this musical, similar to Billy Elliot The Musical where even though there is clear fiction at points, it doesn't go over the top considering this is based on the true story of Jamie Campbell. And this is thanks to the brilliant vision that Jonathan Butterell brings to this musical. Katie Prince's choreography is stunning in this production, she supplies visually stunning moments, a highlight for me is the movement duel within If I Met Myself Again, so beautiful.
Anna Fleischle also adds to this by supplying excellent costume and set design. The genius in this is with the set having very dull colours, Anna supplies Jamie with bright, colourful designs for his costume, which shows the contrasts of him and the real world. I loved the minimalism on stage with the folding room, plus working beautifully with Lucy Carter's lighting design which beautifully matched the tone in every scene, plus supplied an elevation of energy in the musical numbers.
Dan Gillespie Sell's music in this production is contemporary and varies, which is everything you want within a musical, and I personally feel there couldn't be a better soundtrack for this story. Tom MacRae supplies very suitable, plus ingenious lyrics for this musical event, and he also writes the book for this production, supplying a brilliant adaption of Jamie Campbell's story.
This musical is a sensation for a reason, it is the musical of the decade, highlighting the faults in our world, that we can and should rise against. This is a big middle finger to the bigots and a huge hug to the people who are a little different in our society. Be who you want to be! This musical is so fabulously uplifting, it spreads the message and also entertains the hell out of you. This is a 5-star production, at first you don't even know it but by the end you know it's a work of art!