'Everybody's Talking About Jamie' review – it's a joy to revisit this uniquely British musical

Read our four-star review of Everybody's Talking About Jamie, starring Ivano Turco, now in performances at the Peacock Theatre to 23 March.

Julia Rank
Julia Rank

Arriving at the Peacock Theatre for a six-week visit as part of its second UK tour, Dan Gillespie Sells and Tom MacRae’s 2017 musical Everybody’s Talking About Jamie is as vivacious as ever. Jonathan Butterell’s original production is in the capable hands of Matt Ryan, showcasing a modern classic of uniquely British musical theatre that’s a joy to revisit, and sure to win over plenty of new fans.

It’s a pleasure to experience how well the show, inspired by a 2011 BBC documentary, works. It hits all the expected emotional beats but it avoids feeling formulaic thanks to the quirky and lovable cast of characters, and the punchiness of MacRae’s book. The songs are individualised and form a coherent whole, doing the job of moving the story on; the ballads are heartfelt, and the upbeat numbers provide plenty of earworms.

Sixteen-year-old Sheffield schoolboy and wannabe drag queen Jamie New is a character who could be a bit annoying in his pursuit of the spotlight and habit of treating the people around him “like backing singers”.

However, stepping into the red high heels, Ivano Turco’s (Prince Sebastian in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cinderella) Jamie is a real daydreamer with bleached-blonde cornrows and a radiant smile who captures the insecure side as vividly as the fearless performer. This Jamie vividly grapples with self-doubt before he emerges glowing and himself in a simple white dress (echoes of Maria in West Side Story) at the final prom.

The powerful-voiced Rebecca McKinnis as Jamie’s devoted and careworn mother Margaret is an introvert who has raised an extrovert. She steps into the spotlight with her two torch songs “If I Met Myself Again” and “He’s My Boy” hesitantly but with a sense of palpable relief of getting her bottled-up feelings off her chest.

There’s also a lovely and relatable performance from Talia Palamathanan as Jamie’s serious-minded but quietly hilarious best friend Pritti, an aspiring doctor who’s more concerned with studying than prom-planning. Another outsider who’s unapologetically herself, she sings “It Means Beautiful” with projections of stars whirling around her bedroom, and her Buzz Lightyear doll on her bed.

Show and film adaptation veteran Shobna Gulati reprises her role as bargain-hunting, sweary, heart-of-gold family friend Ray, who has essentially co-parented Jamie with Margaret and may have imbued him with some of her mannerisms. The ensemble of Jamie’s classmates all look age appropriate and have a chance to show off their tricks in the grand finale.

Though not the strongest singer, John Partridge’s diffident retired drag queen Hugo comes into his own when he revives his alter ego Loco Chanelle. However, there is some rather clunky stunt casting in the form of podcaster and ‘Queen of the Jungle’ Giovanna Fletcher as killjoy teacher Miss Hedge; she’s fine looking cross but struggles with the small amounts of singing (and rapping) allocated to the character.

Kate Prince’s choreography with flapping ties and blazers, plus desk-ography, is a delight and everything slots into place against Anna Fleishle’s industrial-style set design. Everybody’s going to be talking about this charmer of a show for a while to come.

Everybody's Talking About Jamie is at the Peacock Theatre through 23 March. Book Everybody's Talking About Jamie tickets on London Theatre.

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Photo credit: Everybody's Talking About Jamie (Photo by Matt Crockett)

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