Yorkshire Times
Weekend Edition
Phil Hopkins
Group Travel Editor & Theatre Correspondent
6:40 AM 2nd July 2024

Jamie: Still A Topic Of Conversation 7 Years On

Is everybody still talking about Jamie? Well, judging from the enthusiastic reception Ivano Turco was given in the title role at Bradford’s Alhambra last night, they may not be talking about him quite as much as they were three years ago, when I first saw it, but most of the audience still want a slice of this hit musical.

Still billed as ‘The Hit Musical For Today’ – Everybody's Talking About Jamie premiered in Sheffield in 2017 - I think it is fun, enthusiastic, frothy and features more lippy than a drag queen’s dressing room, however, for me, it remains finite in that it is a show that will only ever be as strong as the transgender debate that gave it life.

With overtures of Billy Elliot, Brassed Off, Blood Brothers, Willy Russell’s Our Day Out and snapshots of Kinky Boots, here is a musical that has borrowed genre if not exact lines, reflecting its success: a regional show with a true story at its heart along with a raft of themes that have wide appeal: rejection, ugly duckling syndrome, triumph over adversity and other emotional prompts.

Turco, with his magically, expressive hands, is brilliant in the main role as Jamie and a real all-rounder who delivers on the libretto and the music if, at times, with too much vibrato, something that is seemingly applauded and encouraged in tv talent-shows but can prove a little maddening in a two-hour production!

It is the story of a 16-year-old who wants to be a drag queen and the journey he goes on to find himself and his drag persona.

It is also about his relationship with his supportive mum, Margaret (Rebecca McKinnis), unsupportive dad and all those classroom friends – as well as the school bully – who surround him daily.

Set in Sheffield but originally inspired by the real-life Jamie Campbell from Durham, this uplifting musical from the joint pens of Dan Gillespie Sells, Tom Macrae and co-writer director, Jonathan Butterell, is very much in the vein of those Northern musicals that have won audiences over: Billy Elliot, the Full Monty and several others.

And, whilst it was excellent – full of an enthusiasm, with an amazingly energetic dance corps - I cannot help feel that it will only endure whilst ever the fickle public endorse it……until they have something else to rave about and, in the modern way, loan their standing ovation to.

Sondheim’s La Cage Aux Folles was a victim of ‘Aids’ and quickly disappeared, crushed by current affairs and, whilst it remains a wonderful, brilliant musical, it can only reemerge when the public ‘climate’ has warmed.

Jamie, with some brilliant performances- Sejal Keshwala as Ray, mum’s sexually prolific sidekick, Sam Bailey as no nonsense headteacher Miss Hedge, the three ‘drag queens’ – hilarious – and Talia Palamathanan as Pritti Pasha, Jamie’s best mate, is such a musical, and, right now, in the words of Sondheim, is enjoying The Best of Times……until the crowd turns. Go and enjoy. Be part of the fun.

Everybody’s Talking About Jamie is still in vogue. You’ll be safe on the way home!

Everybody’s Talking About Jamie
Alhambra Bradford
Until Saturday July 6th