BWW Review: EVERYBODY'S TALKING ABOUT JAMIE, Apollo Theatre
Few musicals adapted from real-life events are able to truly capture the emotions of real life: the euphoric highs and gut-punching lows.
Everybody's Talking About Jamie tells the heart-warming story of an outgoing young man with a dream to be a drag queen which cannot fail to move and delight in equal measure.
Opening with the immediately catchy "And You Don't Even Know It", Jamie New bursts from the stale and grey classroom to open his heart and tell the audience of his dream of stardom on the drag scene.
The resulting show is a sequin-studded whirlwind, following Jamie to his school prom via his very first drag show. It's not all plain sailing; despite Jamie's mum being his rock, an absent father and closed-minded school kids make this journey a rollercoaster of emotion and show the true grit of the titular character facing adversity.
Noah Thomas leads this new cast for 2020, taking on the title role with a flamboyance that seems irrepressible without ever being overstated. Simply, his performance is a joy to watch, and his presence on the West End stage makes it impossible to believe that the young actor is still a student at Mountview Academy.
Melissa Jacques is equally impressive in her portrayal of Margaret, Jamie's mum, who still has an enviable appetite for life in spite her tough experiences. Jacques makes Margaret's dedication to her son painfully palpable, leaving more than a few misty eyes through the audience.
Her first solo number, "If I Met Myself Again", is accompanied by a beautiful interpretive dance that could melt even the coldest of hearts - it's one of the most moving moments in Act I. In particular, her pause on Jamie's existence while exploring her 'what ifs' leaves a lasting impression.
The production also enjoys the presence of drag royalty in Bianca Del Rio, RuPaul's Drag Race Season 6 winner, recently voted the most powerful drag queen in America. Both as 'by-day' character Hugo and 'by-night' drag queen Loco Chanelle, Roy Haylock is a seasoned professional and has his audience in the palm of his hand.
A large number of the ensemble make their West End debuts in this production, though it would be impossible to know that. The quality of the 25-strong cast on stage is staggering, and while every member of the cast pulls their own weight in a faultless team effort, the energy of Harriet Payne, in particular, catches the eye.
Accompanied by a nine-piece band, Dan Gillespie Sells' score is perfectly punctuated. The Feeling band member has clearly found his calling in penning the songs for the production, with a number of memorable numbers to take away and each offering its own punchy hook.
The only real drawback from the production is the sudden ending. Vast, complex issues that were exposed and explored in painful detail in the production seem to be skimmed over for a joyous - if slightly simplistic - end to the story.
While one can understand the desire to bring the piece to a neat end, it does seem rather rushed - without giving too much away - to have all of these hurdles Jamie faced through the show ironed out with such ease.
That said, it's clear to see why this show has the legs (no pun intended!) to run for the foreseeable future. Jamie's life was documented by BBC Three, before being dramatised for the stage in the original Sheffield production in 2017.
Where its charm lies is in its embrace of real life - it does not shy away from the homophobic abuse suffered by Jamie, nor the complicated relationship he had with his father. It's gritty and gratifying in equal part, with something for everyone.
As far as a good night out goes, you'd be pretty hard pressed to come across something more uplifting and soulful than this.
Photo credit: Matt Crockett