Everybody’s Talking About Jamie Musical Review at Sunderland Empire

Everybody’s Talking About Jamie Musical Review at Sunderland Empire

Everybody’s Talking About Jamie – 19th September 2023

Jamie New is sixteen and lives on a council estate in Sheffield. Jamie doesn’t quite fit in. Jamie is terrified about the future. Jamie is going to be a sensation. Supported by his brilliant loving mum and surrounded by his friends, Jamie overcomes prejudice, beats the bullies and steps out of the darkness, into the spotlight. Sunderland Empire Theatre hosts the epic Everybody’s Talking About Jamie this week and this is their synopsis of the storyline. It is ever so much more than just this story however, a message to all young boys everywhere who want to wear that damn dress. Modern, powerful and truly touching are just three words to describe this sensation. This wonderful show is certainly not one to be missed and lives up to its reputation of winning Best New Musical, Whatsonstage Awards, London. 

If you have ever seen the BBC documentary Drag Queen at Sixteen you will know the star of this show is based upon a young boy from Bishop Auckland. Jamie Campbell or otherwise known as the fabulous Fifi La True who is from our very own North East. Watching this documentary sparked the concept for this engaging and thought provoking musical and it has continued to grow from there. It was made into a musical movie which I absolutely adore with the iconic Sarah Lancashire playing Margaret and a whole host of other famous faces. It really is just wholly endearing and you can’t help but fall in love with the characters. This show is also packed with many popular names- John Partridge, Shobna Gulati and Hayley Tammadan – some well loved British soap stars who really lived up to their acting expertise. 

This show truly made me laugh my head off one minute and double hand wipe the tears away the next- that’s when you know you’re properly crying. The direction and writing of this show is truly top tier and I couldn’t take my eyes off the stage.

Director and Co Writer, Jonathan Butterrell links the story of the documentary to his own childhood growing up on a council estate in Sheffield and said he just knew that the challenges Jamie had faced would just create a modern fairytale. The first time Jamie and his Mam Margaret saw the show they loved it and just hugged each other crying

The music throughout the show is just perfection too and sells pop music like no other. Every single song fits perfectly into the production and there isn’t a single dud number. Dan Gillespie Sells is the genius behind the music and lyrics and you can just tell how much time, care and precision went into creating this score. 

The incredibly effortless and talented Ivano Turco takes on the role of Jamie in this tour being the fourth Jamie to lead this wonderful cast. Many iconic names have come before him including the wonderful Layton Williams. As soon as I saw Ivano with the glorious and iconic bleach blonde hair and his stunning smile I just knew we were in for a treat. I have never seen a performer command a stage with so much effervescence and SASS! Every single song he sang was pitch perfect with his effortless vocals, his voice was so gentle yet powerful at the same time and those riffs were something to behold. I could listen to him sing all day. His acting really got to shine especially within the second half with some of those gripping scenes. He gave such grace and lovability to this role and allowed us to see so many facets of Jamie’s wonderful personality. I also have to applaud him for the way in which he moved in those heels. Truly iconic. 

The stage was filled with desks and set up ready to learn as the theatre plummeted into darkness and the show started suddenly. So suddenly I actually jumped out of my skin. The notoriously evil Miss Hedge was played by the wonderful Hayley Tammadan who played the baddie so well… so well I was shocked actually. She was truly one of the greatest villains of the story with her no nonsense policies in the classroom. I have to say those Year 11 students were a bit of a handful for her though and the young actors on stage really did a great job coming across as a rowdy rabble. The iconic song starts the show- ‘ And You Don’t Even Know it’ as Jamie begins to dream of being the ultimate Drag Sensation. This song is truly multifaceted and has so many different musical styles and melodies throughout. From the off, the choreography was impeccable and in perfect keeping with each and every song. The desks were cleverly maneuvered across the stage creating a light up catwalk and I thought this was ingenious transporting us to a different world even within the classroom. 

The staging throughout was really impactful. Fairly simple but hugely effective. I loved the use of the projections on the stage to create different scenes behind them- the streets of Sheffield, the classroom, the Art class – this really allowed us to feel as though we were there. When Victor’s Secrets opened up I loved the simplicity of the clothing rail, chair and changing room as well as the scenery dropping in. It was all so slick and effective. The cast quickly and seamlessly moved the staging on and off without detracting from the show. In Jamie’s actual home the scenery was so impressive. Every single detail had been thought of, iron, ironing board, toaster, kettle- you name it, it was there. There was even cutlery for Shobna’s character Ray to get the Lurpak out and make a crisp sandwich… big spenders with the Lurpak! Another favourite piece of setting for me was the toilet and the window- so cleverly used. You can see every single detail has been thought of within this show and it really was impressive. Bravo, to the staging team and the Stage Manager James Ingram.

Jamie/ Ivano then went on to give us such a stunning rendition of Wall in My Head. He really did give this song everything and I adored how they all managed to keep some of the Sheffield accent into their singing. It always amazes me when performers do that. This song and My Man, Your Boy by Jamie have to be two of the show stoppers with their thoughtful, endearing lyrics.

Speaking of tear jerking performances Rebecca McKinnis playing Margaret New was an absolute sensation quite honestly. She has two of the most difficult songs in the show with If I Met Myself Again and He’s My Boy and she brought something so different to how I have heard them being done before. She has such a unique tone to her voice and she provided such authenticity to her role. You could hear the pain behind her words and it just made it feel so real. I much prefer a gritty, real performance to a note perfect one … although all of the notes she sang struck a real chord within me. I adored the lyrical, contemporary dance during If I Met Myself Again – the choreography was so special and brought the song to life. Beautiful choreography from Kate Prince and beautifully carried out by Jessica Daugirda and Joshian Angelo Omana. 

Margaret New’s partner in crime Ray was played by the wonderful Shobna Gulati. Shobna reprises her role she took within the movie musical as the promiscuous Ray. Full of love, energy and a potty mouth – yet again, she does have bigger balls than any man could ever have! She really is wonderful in every single way and shines upon that stage.

Another true professional is our wonderful Hugo or shall we say Loco Chanel played by John Partridge. Wow, John has one incredibly powerful and mesmerizing voice. He had the crowd in the palm of his hand and knew how to command attention on that stage. His song, The Legend of Loco Chanel was expertly done and also perfectly portrayed on stage- especially that last detail of the hand sliding down the door – I have chills just thinking about it. My only issue is that I would have liked John’s microphone to be a little louder as his words were a little cloudy at times from where we were sitting. This was such a shame and I don’t think it was down to him as his diction was as clear as day. I have to say, I was mightily impressed with his Yorkshire accent too – plus he looked beyond gorgeous dressed up as Loco Chanel at the end of the first half – what a pair of legs

The dancing from the ensemble and members of the school was truly second to none and had been choreographed to perfection. You could just see how much passion and drive they all had – but actually how much fun they were having! The dynamic dancers had to take on so many different styles of dancing throughout but I adored the street style using the desks and backflipping. The Vogueing was also iconic and the speed at which the hand movements were done were just so impressive. I didn’t know where to look! The ensemble also provided some of the most wonderful harmonies and accompaniments to many of the songs and I applaud them for that. There wasn’t a single weak voice amongst the cast.

Jamie’s best friend Pritti Pasha was played by Talia Palamathanan and did such a wonderful job. This character is just so likeable and you can’t help but fall in love with her bookwormish ways. So sweet, but she finds her strength at the end. Never lose faith. She expertly sang It Means Beautiful at such a pinnacle point within the show…  I may or may not have shed another tear during this song as well. Our two baddies were delivered well by Jordan Ricketts playing Dean Paxton and Akshay St Clair playing Jamie’s Dad. Both so evil and unlikeable throughout- job well done. 

I loved all of the modern references throughout as well – using the phones for selfies and referring to the current king of pop – Harry Styles. They also referenced so many divas throughout which gave that nod to the pop culture it is all based around. This was so cleverly interwoven throughout the script- Britney, Whitney, Beyoncé, Madonna and the one and only Ru Paul. 

The whole show was laced with relevant humour alongside some dirty gags. I burst out laughing at several points especially during the scene with the wonderful drag queens –  Garry Lee as Sandra Bollock , Ky Kelly as Laika Virgin and David McNair as Tray Sophisticay – who may I say were mind blowingly good at singing which we got to hear at the end of the show in Out of the Darkness. A true feel good anthem to end this incredible show which showed Jamie being enlightened and free to be who he really wanted. A truly important message for any audience members watching. 

Modern, powerful and fearless. A true sensation of a show packed with breathtaking talent. It will take you on a rollercoaster of emotions – laughing one moment and sobbing the next. One of the best shows I have seen in a long time and certainly not one to be missed with such an extraordinarily talented cast.

Tickets are available online at www.ATGtickets.com/sunderland 

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