After being hailed as “Billy Elliott for the Brexit generation” and picking up two UK Theatre Awards following its 19-day run at Sheffield’s Crucible Theatre earlier this year, Everybody’s Talking About Jamie – a new musical inspired by a BBC Three documentary about a 16-year-old boy who wants to be a drag queen – has officially opened in the West End!
This fearless, funny, and fabulous musical sensation hits the Apollo Theatre with a catchy soundtrack by lead singer-songwriter of The Feeling, Dan Gillespie Sells, and writer Tom MacRae – two Brits who had never written a musical before Jamie.
Based on a true story, the show focuses on Jamie New, a teenager from a northern council estate, who, supported by his brilliant loving mum and surrounded by his friends, overcomes prejudice, beats the bullies and steps out of the darkness, and into the spotlight as a drag queen.
But did critics find this brand-new British musical fabulously fierce, or did they think it was a drag? We’ve rounded up the reviews below…
THE TIMES: ★★★★★
This fizzing musical is a blast of fresh air, and what a joy to see a stageful of youngsters who look like swathes of modern Britain…John McCrea lights up the stage as Jamie, gawky, vulnerable and magnetic.
This is not a story about being gay, but about finding out who you are, in this case a teenager who wants to wear a (sparkly) dress to his prom. But, at its core, it’s also about a mother who loves her son. Josie Walker is simply sensational as Margaret New, with a voice that soars and hits you in the heart.
TIME OUT: ★★★★★
A burst of joy in the heart of the West End. This new British musical, transferring from the Sheffield Crucible, is the real deal. Watch out, tired revivals: there’s a new kid in town.
At the show’s heart is a star-making turn by John McCrea as Jamie, the queen-in-waiting. Charismatically sharp and sassy during the showstoppers, pulse-racingly choreographed by Kate Prince, he deftly reveals the ache of vulnerability behind his character’s catwalk strut.
EVENING STANDARD: ★★★★
The highlight of a strong supporting cast is Josie Walker as Jamie’s doting mother, glorious in her introspective solos. Lucie Shorthouse is richly amusing as his earnestly diligent friend Pritti and Phil Nichol delights as his bear-like mentor Hugo, who reminisces eagerly about a past life as diva Loco Chanelle.
The result is a true crowd-pleaser — big-hearted and joyous.
THE TELEGRAPH: ★★★★
The director Jonathan Butterell, hand-in-hand with Dan Gillespie Sells (music) and Tom Macrae (book and lyrics), have created a show that might well, to judge by the audience’s rapt response, become a cult classic.
Kate Prince’s choreography is sharp and cleverly evocative of both the trudging boredom of the classroom and the opportunities it gives for naughty self-expression. The music, referencing pop, funk, northern soul, Abba, Elton John, Radiohead (not to mention a deep undertow of the choppy guitar rhythms of Pink Floyd’s dystopian The Wall) is catchy…
It’s the dawn of a new age of masculinity: you simply can’t not feel it…And at the theatre, Everybody’s Talking About Jamie…is a teen drag musical that is boldly weighing in on masculinity.
Here is a set of powerfully nuanced performances which intertwine with an incredibly catchy score: this is how to do musicals seriously – but still keep them fun.
Exuberant, exhilarating, exciting, enchanting…MacRae’s book and lyrics tell the tale in such a scrappy, honest, hilarious way that the whole thing has delightful punch. There’s swearing, selfies, rapping and pop-culture references galore – complete with some zinging one-liners – and as a result it feels as British as they come.
THE STAGE: ★★★★★
The show is unapologetically, hilariously, aggressively camp, the queerest of queer, and all the more brilliant for being so.
John McCrea’s pale complexion, white hair and delicate features are at odds with the fabulous clothes he dons. He brings charm and sass, struts and sashays, to every detail of his huge performance, and is matched by comic brilliance from Mina Anwar as family friend Ray.
THE INDEPENDENT: ★★★★★
Irresistible: a joyous, life-affirming Billy Elliot for an age struggling with the fluidities of gender identity.
Jonathan Butterell, who was first to see the musical potential in the documentary, directs a beautifully cast production that brings out all the affectionate comedy and fellow-feeling in the show’s approach to the support network.
Everybody’s Talking About Jamie runs until 21st April 2018 at the Apollo Theatre, with tickets available HERE.
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