Apollo Theatre, London
Flying into its third year in the West End, Everybody’s Talking About Jamie retains its giant heart and remains an inspiring, colourful, hilarious and all round joyous musical. Dan Gillespie Sells and Tom MacRae’s show tells the story of an extroverted 15 year old who dreams of being a drag queen. Despite being sure of himself and his abilities, young Jamie New has to face those who oppose him and try to pull him down, so he can achieve his dreams and show the people around him that being true to yourself can get you far. It’s a show which delights and inspires in equal measure, and is sure to retain its spot in theatre lovers’ hearts for the foreseeable future.
In his West End and indeed, professional debut, Noah Thomas brings every aspect of leading man, Jamie New, to life with an ease that is truthful to the story but feels just polished enough. Opening with the incredibly catchy ‘And You Don’t Even Know It’, Thomas immediately shows us who Jamie is as he transforms the stage into a world of colour and begins the journey which will shape his life. From there on in his entire performance is joyous to experience. With charm in spades and glorious vocals, he continually exudes life and never falters throughout his time on stage.
As Jamie’s mum, Melissa Jacques is beautifully vulnerable, and draws huge amounts of empathy from the audience as she does all she can to be the best mum to her beloved son. Jacques’ vocal performance is that of a powerhouse, with ‘He’s My Boy’ providing an emotional high-point that wows the audience. The chemistry between Jamie and his mum is lovely to see, as is the truthful friendship of Jamie and and his best friend, Pritti.
Both misunderstood and outsiders in their own ways, the pair continually find common ground and support one another. It’s wonderful to see such a supportive and non-toxic friendship played out on stage. As Pritti, Hiba Elchikhe is delightfully moving and vocally exceptional, especially in the act two ballad, ‘It Means Beautiful’. Just as Pritti’s bedroom sparkles, Elchikhe gives a glittering performance and makes a sensational West End debut.
Roy Haylock/Bianca Del Rio as Hugo/Loco Chanelle is highly entertaining. Compared to the rest of the cast, his vocals are not consistently top notch but the energy and commitment he performs with mostly make up for that and it’s a real treat to see such a widely recognised drag star on a West End stage.
As the rapping teacher Miss Hedge, Preeya Kalidas is vocally strong. The character herself is a little jarring at times as she flits between being an enforcer of reality and a restricter of freedom. It’s sometimes confusing as it’s unclear whether she’s a villain or just someone trying to help. Perhaps that’s the whole point!
Sejal Keshwala is completely ballsy in her performance as Ray and wins over the audience in a matter of moments. Also giving a hugely strong and highly assured performance is Jordan Ricketts as the school bully and Jamie’s tormentor Dean Paxton. The entire cast are the embodiment of joy and perfectly evoke the feelings of school life. Katie Prince’s choreography excellently brings to life the often frenetic atmosphere of Jamie’s life and is fresh and exciting to watch.
This is a musical which inspires us all to own what makes us ‘different’ and is just a lovely portrayal of family, friendship and acceptance. Contemporary, sassy and so very British, lets keep talking about Jamie!
photo credit: Matt Crockett