Based on the BBC Three documentary, ‘Jamie: Drag Queen at 16’, the Crucible’s new musical Everybody’s Talking About Jamie is a riot of fabulous, feel good sass! Set in Sheffield about a teenage boy trying to break into the drag scene, Everybody’s Talking About Jamie is a coming of age story about acceptance and staying true to yourself. Yet Dan Gillespie Sells’ toe-tapping soundtrack and Tom MacRae’s quick witted script stops it from becoming too clichéd.
John McCrea’s Jamie has an easy confidence and humour which makes it hard for the audience not to love him within the first few minutes of the first act, and very easy for him to outmanoeuvre the school bully and the conformist views of the school later on in the play. Jamie knows exactly who he is and what he wants to do (quite the feat for a sixteen year old!). However, because of this, he soon bulldozes through his friends and family to make sure that everybody is talking about him – producing at times some outraged gasps from the audience. The journey that Jamie goes on isn’t one of self-acceptance but one of compassion and acceptance of other people’s choices.
Jamie’s mother, Margaret (brilliantly played by Josie Walker), is truly a hero throughout the play. She encourages Jamie throughout and never lets anything stand in his way; even if her protection can sometimes backfire. Walker’s solos are full of raw emotion; handling her vulnerability as she tries to do everything for her son and the love she feels for him. Even though she doesn’t take part in the big group numbers, she demands the audience’s attention when she is onstage.
Lucie Shorthouse is quietly brilliant as Pritti Pasha, Jamie’s studious best friend. Although she takes part in the larger group numbers, it is her solo in the second half when she is given the chance to truly shine. She is not as loud and extroverted as Jamie is but she has a fierceness which is unleashed in the final confrontation with the school bully and elicited many a cheer from the audience – she basically said what I’m sure many of those bullied would have liked to have said!
Although it is the big group pop numbers that get everyone dancing along and leaves the audience on a high, it is the slower, softer songs which really get to the heart of the play. Like I said at the start of this post, Everybody’s Talking About Jamie is about acceptance and it is not just Jamie who is looking for it. The characters all have their own obstacles to overcome and it is Jamie’s passion which inspires them to all become superstars in their own right.
With the success in recent years of other original musicals – This is My Family and Flowers for Mrs Harris – Everybody’s Talking About Jamie is just another example of how strong Sheffield Theatres’ musical game is.