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Everybody's Talking About Jamie

Everybody's Talking About Jamie

Following a record-breaking three-year West End residency, sold-out UK & Ireland Tour and Amazon studios award-winning film, the smash-hit and critically acclaimed musical Everybody’s Talking About Jamie returns to the West End at the Peacock Theatre.

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. This ‘Funny, outrageous, touching’ (Daily Telegraph), musical sensation is to be experienced by all the family and not to be missed!

Casting includes Ivano Turco as Jamie (Get Up Stand Up, Bad Cinderella), John Partridge (Cabaret, La Cage Aux Folles, Chicago, Eastenders) as Hugo/Loco Chanelle, Shobna Gulati as Ray (The Rise and Fall of Little Voice, Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, Coronation Street, Brassic), Rebecca McKinnis as Margaret (Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, Dear Evan Hansen, We Will Rock You, Les Miserables) and Talia Palamathanan as Pritti (Everybody’s Talking About Jamie Tour and film), with further star casting to be announced.

Set to an original score of catchy pop tunes that will ‘blow the roof of the Theatre’ (Mail on Sunday) by lead singer-songwriter of The Feeling, Dan Gillespie Sells and writer Tom MacRae (Doctor Who). Choregraphed by Sadler’s Wells Associate Artist Kate Prince (Into The Hoods, Some Like It Hip Hop, SYLVIA, Message In A Bottle). This ‘sparking coming-of-age musical’ (The Times) will have everybody talking about Jamie for years to come.

Sixteen: the edge of possibility. Time to make your dreams come true.

[Image description] In a classroom bathed in blue light, joyful teenagers in blue school uniform seem to explode outwards as they reach for the sky. Only one boy, off to the right, is bent forward, frowning. Behind them, on an upper level, a band plays.

Photography and video features previous cast
Directed by Matt Ryan from original direction by Jonathan Butterell

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Everybody's Talking About Jamie ON TOUR

Our review on Everybody's Talking About Jamie

Everybody's Talking About Jamie - The Lowry, Salford - Tuesday 12th September 2023 by Christa Norton

Our Rating

Everybody’s Talking About Jamie has to be one of the hottest tickets for the autumn. It starts its UK tour here in Salford after a phenomenally successful run on the West End and a hit film of the show courtesy of Amazon Studios.

Written by Dan Gillespie Sells (The Feeling) and Tom Macrae (Doctor Who, The Librarians), based on an idea by Jonathan Butterell (Hamlet, Fiddler on the Roof), the production itself has won numerous awards – not least Best New Musical at the prestigious Whatsonstage Awards - and its uncompromising take on identity politics combined with a strong anti bullying message seems to become more prescient and relevant as every year passes. So I took my seat with very high hopes for the evening – and I was not disappointed!

Everybody’s Talking About Jamie is the story of Jamie New, a 16 year old school boy who dreams of becoming a drag artist. He lives in a gloomy, soot-drenched Sheffield – always presented in black and white on the staging backdrop - and faces the barriers you might expect: the homophobic school bully, the world-weary teacher, the judgemental and largely absent father.

At this point it would be easy to make assumptions about this play: cliched, maybe a Billy Elliott but with drag rather than ballet. This couldn’t be further from the truth. The story never feels contrived; possibly this is because it is based on the real life account of Jamie Campbell, which gives the production a definite emotional grounding, but I think it’s more that the characters themselves aren’t caricatures, they are carefully considered and authentic. This is particularly important given some of the themes tackled by the show: homophobia, bullying, the nature of identity, and the relationship between parent and child. There are moments when this show packs a really powerful emotional punch. But it is also full of joy: the music is upbeat and vibrant, the costumes are glitzy, the script is sharp and full of wit, and the cast deliver it with a sense of glee, and none more so than Ivano Turco (Cinderella, Camelot in Concert), as the titular Jamie New.

I have rarely seen an actor enjoy owning the stage in quite the way he does: he is simply wonderful to watch. His face is incredibly expressive, with a megawatt smile that is infectious, making him instantly likeable. He holds himself like a ballet dancer and throughout his performance consciously uses the full breadth of his body to create movements that are fluid, graceful and mesmerising.  His physical poise is matched by a voice that is quite exceptional and he has ample opportunity to demonstrate just how capable a vocalist he is. For me, one particular highlight was ‘Ugly in the Ugly World’, an emotionally-charged ballad that was incredibly demanding, yet which Turco delivered perfectly.

Opposite Turco is Talia Palamathanan (Matilda the Musical, Everybody’s talking about Jamie) playing his best friend Pritti Pasha. I really enjoyed her performance, especially the ballad ‘It means beautiful’, which Palamathanan sings almost as a lullaby to soothe and comfort a distraught Jamie. The sweetness of her voice during this ballad belies some of its power, but her ability to keep the song simple and innocent made it all the more touching.

Rebecca McKinnis (Mamma Mia, Beauty and the Beast) deserves particular recognition for her role as Jamie’s mother Margaret. The story focuses heavily on the relationship Jamie has with his mother – and the relationship he doesn’t have with his father - and explores with great sensitivity the challenging issues of parental rejection and abandonment. It also looks at the nature of parenthood, the many sacrifices that parents do make for their children. In the song ‘He’s my boy,’ McKinnis brings to life exactly what it means to be a mother, the joy and frustration of parenthood. The emotional power she brings to this song is just overwhelming – I and no doubt every other mother in the room was with her in that moment and I will admit I was completely reduced to tears by her gutsy, passionate performance.

John Partridge
(Rent, Chicago) offers Jamie an alternative parental figure as Hugo/Loco Channelle. His performance focuses on clearly establishing the difference between the artist as a person and the drag act itself, to land the point that a drag queen is so much more than just a “boy in a dress.” It was a joy to watch him skilfully carve out his own two distinct characters, person and persona, and then slip effortlessly between them – sometimes in mid conversation – through something as simple as a change in stance.

Comic relief was provided with wonderful aplomb by the superb Shobna Gulati (Coronation Street, Dinnerladies) playing family friend Ray. The role will forever stick in my mind for the weird and wonderful range of knock off chocolates she finds – not least the After Sevens. Gulati does an excellent job of cutting through the atmosphere at key moments in the production and providing a sense of momentum where emotional scenes may otherwise slow the production down.

Hayley Tamaddon (Unforgotten, Emmerdale) is wonderful as the snooty, patronising and wholly uninspiring careers teacher Miss Hedge. I found it very interesting how at first her character is sympathetic, wanting to prepare her students for the realities of life outside of school, and yet this ‘sense of reality’ quickly moves into the need to fit in with, and abide by. societal norms. Tamaddon navigates the subtle shifts in her character brilliantly.

The excellence of the cast is easily matched by the excellence of the ensemble – a brilliant team of young artists who bring energy, humour and a definite sense of sass to the production, whose singing of the big toe-tapping set pieces is bright and articulate, and whose dancing is sharp and snappy.

I absolutely must call out the designer Anna Fleischle for an inspired approach to the staging. It is formed of a grid system of blocks and a projected backdrop that can transform the stage from school classroom to housing estate to drag catwalk within a few moments.  The band are housed in the upstairs of the grid behind the backdrop which means that whilst they are a constant presence on the stage, they are often silhouetted. It reminded me at times of Madonna’s Vogue video with its use of silhouettes, and no doubt drew inspiration from this, as did several of the dance sequences.

The choreography, created by Kate Prince MBE (Message in a bottle, Ballyturk) is both beautiful and inventive. Whilst the set pieces delivered some fabulous routines, I particularly enjoyed a quieter moment with the ballad ‘If I met myself again’, sung by Rebecca McKinnis, during which two members of the ensemble, Joshian Angelo Omana (Aladdin) and Jessica Daugirda (Bugsy Malone, The Sound of Music) dance together to bring the emotion of the song to life.

Given the material, much of the humour and language is very much on the adult side, and this is definitely not appropriate for younger children. However, my 13 year old son who accompanied me thought it was brilliant – more importantly, he was also really keen to talk to me afterwards about some of the themes, especially the bullying.

This is a phenomenal production and utterly deserving of the standing ovation it received last night. It was obvious from the opening number that the cast themselves love performing this production and it is impossible not to share their view.


Watch our video "In Conversation with Hayley Tamaddon" discussing the show.

Watch our video "In Conversation with John Partridge" talking all things Jamie!

Our review on Everybody's Talking About Jamie

Everybody's Talking About Jamie - The Lowry, Salford - Saturday 4th September 2021 by Karen Ryder

Our Rating

One of our trusted reviewers, Karen Ryder, enjoyed an amazing night at The Lowry as she attended Everybody's Talking About Jamie on Saturday. Another top notch production you have to see...

Everybody’s Talking About Jamie” - and now so am I am because it’s fierce, fabulous and funny.  It is moving, educational and packed with so many cracking one liners that you need to stay alert so you don’t miss the next joke as you’re still laughing at the previous one!

So who is Jamie and why is everybody talking about him?  Well Jamie is actually Jamie Campbell, the real life 16 year old school boy from a small village who dreams of becoming a Drag Queen.  The real Jamie just wanted to go to his prom in a dress - it sounds simple enough, but people being people, he met a fair bit of stupid with a side dish of ignorant along the way as to why he shouldn’t do that.  But Jamie knew who he was and so his journey started.  He wrote to numerous television companies.  One wrote back – just a few weeks before prom!  They made a documentary of his story, “Jamie:  Drag Queen at 16”, and it is from this that the musical was born.


The musical leaves out the TV part and follows Jamie’s journey as he battles and shimmy’s his way through life as an emerging drag queen.  We meet a host of supportive and unsupportive characters who reflect society and highlight the ugly language and views that Jamie has to face just to be his true self.  Even through his friends who do support him, it educates by showing there is such a lack of understanding.  Being a drag queen doesn’t necessarily mean you want to be a woman.  It doesn’t have to mean you are transgender.  It doesn’t have to mean anything other than you want to be a drag queen.  It is an art form.  It is a way for those who have been judged and misunderstood to be free.  It is a thing to be celebrated.

So as the show starts, get ready for the huge ca-ching clunks as this cast is full of name drops and not a single one of them disappoints.  There is Layton Williams, a local Greater Manchester lad from Bury (Billy Elliot, Beautiful People, Hairspray, Rent, School For Stars – and look out for him in the new film version of Everybody's Talking About Jamie).  He is born to play this role.  Convincing, loveable, quick witted, you are rooting for his character right from the start.  Shane Richie (Eastenders, Grease) plays Hugo, Jamie’s drag mamma, and is gracious in his performance.  There is no panto dame caricature, but a genuine and moving performance.  Shobna Gulati (Coronation Street, Dinnerladies, Doctor Who) plays Ray – his mum's wise cracking, “got ya back” best friend.  She is just brilliant and I want her to be on my side for sure.  Loved her character and performance.  Amy Ellen Richardson (basically you name a musical or play and she has done it) plays Jamie’s mum.  She gave me goosebumps with the emotional song “He’s My Boy”, where she sings about her pure love for her son following an argument with him.  Stunning. 

George Sampson (Britains Got Talent, Diversity, Waterloo Road) is really convincing at being the mean bully Dean.  He is equally as moving when we see him realise his own limitations and warped views of Jamie.  Lara Denning (again, you name the musical or play and she has most likely done it) plays Miss Hedge – a really important character to show the difficulties the young students often face at school from the very people they are supposed to be able to turn to for support, advice and education.  Miss Hedge offers opinions, not education and it is really brave to highlight that this is something still happening in schools.  Sharan Phull (Bend it Like Beckham, The Importance of being Earnest, Romeo and Juliet) plays Pritti – Jamie's best friend.  She plays her character with a beautiful strength and helps to educate us all along the way.  The entire cast is mesmerising and clearly have full respect for each other because you can feel it.

The musical opens with a lively, energetic classroom scene where we are introduced to Jamie straight away.  We are dropped into the middle of a careers advice class where Jamie learns his supposed ideal job is a truck driver or prison guard! Jamie wants to be a drag queen. The script is quick and current, referencing the dreaded C word (no not your charisma, uniqueness nerve and talent) but covid.  It is always referenced with humour though, so don’t be put off.  For instance, one student tried to convince the teacher his dad is a key worker but it turns out he’s actually a locksmith!

This script really has too many laugh out loud moments to mention but each live is delivered with the ease and skill of seasoned performers.   The humour is used skilfully and makes the poignant moments stand out all the more for it.

The staging works really well with projection used to good effect, including showing the selfies on a screen that the students are taking. The desks used in the opening scene are simply switched round to create a brick wall and transport us to a different location immediately. The hard working cast do all the scene changes themselves often using the opportunity to express their thoughts through a simple look or head shake. This is done superbly by the bulky character of Dean played by George Sampson. It gives the whole show a slick, realistic feel.

The choreography could be a show in itself - from the beautiful contemporary duo during “If I met myself again”, to the amazing voguing, to each cast member having a solo spot in the finale.   

The audience was quite amazing too, wearing every emotion and reaction on their sleeves with gasps, awws and literal insults thrown out to the bigoted ignorance of the uneducated characters. 

One of my favourite lines was “Toto we’re not in Asda anymore”, delivered by Shobna Gulati’s character Ray.  This simple line is not only funny and witty but can be used to show that there are plenty of shops out there, each selling different yet equally wonderful things.  Because one style and one size definitely does not fit all and the worlds a better place for it.

We loved this production. It is simply wonderful and easily scores full marks.



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