Review: Everybody’s Talking About Jamie
Newcastle Theatre Royal – 16th January 2024
It hardly seems like two minutes since the last time everybody was talking about Jamie New but the fabulous junior drag queen is back at Newcastle Theatre Royal for another week of joy, self-discovery and camp frivolity in this feel-good musical which never fails to disappoint me.
At opening night in Newcastle, the audience were informed in good time that the roles of Jamie New and Young Loco would be played by understudies Finton Flynn and David McNair respectively but you have to understand that you pay your ticket to see a show and not a particular actor, for any number of reasons.
Finton Flynn certainly looks the part and following a somewhat nervous start really grew into the role and very realistically embodied the flamboyant teenager whose desire in life is to become a drag queen. I know the script particularly well and while he may have deviated from it in the first scene, the rest of the cast skilfully guided him back and as the first act continued you could see his nerves start to settle and by the end was as confident as I am sure Ivano Turco is in the role.
This production is very slick and the simple but very effective set is as much to be admired as the performers strutting their stuff on it. The moving pieces turning into walls, school desks and bus stops, etc., is very clever indeed. This along with some unobtrusive and deft projections take us through the various areas that the narrative demands. The cast also work incredibly hard manoeuvring set pieces around. This is largely done in character and is interwoven into the action with some clever choreography.
This is particularly noticeable in the first act when Jamie’s mother, Margaret (Rebecca McKinnis) is lamenting her choices in life with a heart-wrenching interlude between her and her younger self towards the end of the song ‘If I Met Myself Again.’ Speaking of Margaret New, she has, for me, the best song in the show which comes along in Act Two. McKinnis really showed of her talent during ‘He’s My Boy’ and the auditorium fell silent to listen to her interpretation which was as good if not better than any I have heard previously.
The show is invariably stolen by Jamie’s de-facto Aunt Ray (Shobna Gulati) whose down to earth and often foul mouthed and no nonsense attitude has the audience in fits of laughter and Gulati really excelled in this role this evening.
Another character who often shines brightly is Hugo/Loco Chanelle (John Partridge) and again the audience was not disappointed with some outstanding vocals and, for me, a much more understated and thoughtful portrayal of this erstwhile drag queen gently guiding Jamie towards his dreams of stardom. I think Partridge’s character cut a soulful and depressed character and while he got the laughs, he does not play for them which added a wonderful extra nuance to the part which worked very well.
The band led by Danny Belton was outstanding from the first note to the final curtain.
I cannot leave this review without mentioning another couple of outstanding performances. Jamie would not be who he is without the sage advice and understated support of his best friend, Pritti (Talia Palamathanan) whose vocals during ‘It Means Beautiful’ were quite exquisite. This was another stand out occasion when the projections were used to a stunning effect.
Finally, every show needs an antagonist, and in Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, this comes in the form of school bully but handsome and popular, Dean Paxton (Jordan Ricketts.) Everybody knows a Dean Paxton and Ricketts unsympathetic portrayal is authentic.
The rest of the ensemble all add their own particular flair to what is a thoroughly enjoyable production and praise has to go to everyone including the tech team and the creatives. If I could see this show again before it flounces off to pastures new on Saturday 20th January, I would certainly have no hesitation in doing so.
– Stephen Stokoe
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