Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, still, although not as much as before. By the time a show closes its London run, some of the novelty tends to have rubbed off – but it still has its fans, this reviewer included. Inspired by the 2011 BBC documentary Jamie: Drag Queen At 16, the musical has pretty much taken on a life of its own.
Jamie, in fictional form, remains a 16-year-old schoolboy and aspiring drag queen. When he announces he’s going to the school prom in a dress, his decision has him coming up against school bureaucracy, a minor bully and the disapproval/disgust of an absent parent. Through it all is the constant support of his loving mother, a family friend named Ray and an old-school drag queen – Hugo Battersby, aka Loco Chanelle.
The show’s producers haven’t felt the need to snag a well-known or TV-sourced lead for this tour. Our Jamie this time is Ivano Turco, previously cast by Andrew Lloyd Webber for Cinderella, so we know he must have had something special to impress the Lord. This time around, Turco’s Jamie is more nuanced, especially compared to previous ones: his voice is beautiful and soulful, he doesn’t overdo the ‘yass-kween’ campness that can come with the role, and he plays the lows and the highs with sweet subtlety.
Jamie’s mother Margaret was played by understudy Georgina Hagen, impressing the audience with her voice, as did Talia Palamathanan as Pritti: despite the name, it’s not all about Jamie, as the female characters have some of the most beautiful songs in the show. John Partridge stuns as Loco Chanelle, a reminder that before his role in EastEnders he’d already had a full theatre career, and it’s good to see this gay character being played by a gay actor.
Rounding out the main foursome of Jamie’s chosen family is Shobna Gulati as Ray – a role she’s played since 2018, and she has the comedy down to a fine art. Unfortunately, they had to cut her song, for time reasons one suspects, an omission those who hadn’t seen the show four times before might not have even picked up on. (As someone who answers to that description, I don’t remember the musical running to nearly three hours before, although to …Jamie’s credit it didn’t feel like it.)
Maybe the relevancy has abated in recent years – RuPaul has saturated the world of drag, and at present the culture is being vilified by the right – but it’s still a musical that sparkles. As long as it still tours, Everybody’s Talking About Jamie will always be a “little bit of glitter in the grey”…
Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff Bay, Mon 23 Oct
On until Sat 28 Oct. Tickets: £17.50-£71. Info: here
words CHRIS WILLIAMS