Over the last couple of years, Sheffield Theatres have been premiering brand new musicals from British writers. Both This Is My Family and Flowers For Mrs Harris were undoubted successes (with the former touring round the country and restaging at the Sheffield Lyceum), and now Everybody’s Talking About Jamie seems set to repeat the success.
Based on a BBC3 documentary about a 16 year old schoolboy who dreams of becoming a drag queen, Dan Gillespie Sells (lead singer of The Feeling) and Tom MacRae (TV screenwriter for Dr Who and Casualty) have created a feel-good crowd pleaser, full of catchy songs and relatable characters. Personally, I’m not sure if the songs are strong enough to entice neutrals to buy the soundtrack, but certainly fans of Gillespie Sells’ band will find plenty to enjoy.
The first half is perhaps a bit long, and with such a slight story (basically – schoolboy wants to become a drag queen and dreams of wearing a dress to his prom) there’s a fair bit of padding. And, for some reason, the big emotional pull of the piece (Jamie’s conflict with his dad) never quite feels as powerful as it should. But MacRae’s script is witty and full of characters who are instantly likeable, and he’s canny enough not to let Jamie (who can be a bit overpowering at times) completely dominate proceedings.
John McCrea is excellent as Jamie, and he’s surrounded by both comic stalwarts like Mina Anwar and Charles Dale and a talented young ensemble – Lucie Shorthouse, as Jamie’s best friend Pritti, is certainly a name to watch out for. Everybody’s Talking About Jamie is probably not the most challenging night of theatre ever produced, but if you’re looking for an energetic, refreshing musical full of camp comedy, you can’t go wrong.