Everybody's Talking About Jamie At Apollo Theatre
After Hamilton, this may be the most-anticipated arrival in the West End, certainly if you believe the advance publicity. Lauded in Sheffield with 5* reviews, it tells of Jamie New, a quick-witted teen in a roughcast comprehensive — on the sort of council estate where ‘school’ is a two-syllable word — whose all-consuming ambition is not to drive a fork lift truck but to be the RuPaul of South Yorkshire on a drag catwalk.
Based on a 2011 BBC documentary — set on Tyneside but producers felt that was too ‘Billy Elliott’ — Jamie arrives decorated with an album of tunes by The Feeling frontman Dan Gillespie Sells, which are catchy but don’t come home with you. There's quite the batch of token characters, from the bookish Muslim girl who wants to be a doctor, the doting mother and distant dad, and a clutch bag of generously supportive drag queens.
Kate Prince’s fresh, sharp choreography is great — the actors playing the teens are very fine, but top of the class are John McCrea as a spectacularly well-sung and well-observed Jamie, and Josie Walker as his mum. She has the only really heartfelt song in the show, He’s My Boy, with which she brings down the house.
It borrows from Blood Brothers, Kinky Boots and even Bend It Like Beckham but never to the point of losing its own identity, and it’s a shot in the arm to see a new, British stage musical not derived from a film or a back catalogue. Whether Jamie will be doing as well after the school holidays is anyone’s guess, but for now it’s a feelgood show to charm and delight over Christmas.
Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, Apollo Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue, W1, until 21 April 2018.
Last Updated 04 December 2017