Everybody’s Talking About Jamie made its long-awaited return to Sheffield ahead of its nationwide UK tour, and has been showing at the Lyceum since Saturday 8 February.
The musical tells the story of 16-year-old Jamie New, a Sheffield council estate boy who dreams of becoming a drag queen. The show is based on the BBC documentary Jamie: Drag Queen at 16, which followed the life of Jamie Campbell, a boy who wanted to wear a dress to prom.
This production features stars straight from the West End production; naturally, hopes and expectations for the Sheffield show are high.
The first number, ‘And You Don’t Even Know It’, proves to be the best number of the night, leaving me somewhat disappointed with the rest of the show.
The toe-tapping tunes slowly fade to forgettable ballads with odd storylines as the show progresses. ‘The Legend of Loco Chanel (And the Blood Red Dress)’ features particularly bad staging and story, and feels entirely unnecessary to the plot and progression of the performance.
The show also struggles with songs performed by the character Pritti, played by Sharan Phull. It feels quite jarring when the character switches from a heavy Sheffield accent to perfect Received Pronunciation every time she breaks into song.
The standout performance though comes from Layton Williams playing Jamie, who has clearly perfected this character during his West End run. His performance throughout is consistent and he really flexes his rock-pop vocals in the show-stopping number ‘Ugly in this Ugly World’.
Amy Ellen Richardson, who plays Jamie’s mother, also shines through most of ‘He’s My Boy’ – she cannot be blamed for the interesting addition of misplaced high notes written into the music.
George Sampson proves he is much more than just a dancer in the role of Dean and Shobna Gulati as Ray delivers a perfect balance of comedy and heartfelt emotion providing the audience with a welcome laugh.
It’s odd, however, that the whole show focuses on Jamie becoming a drag queen, yet we never see him in full drag at any point in the show (unless you count a projection). Also slightly off is the transition of Miss Hedge, played by Lara Denning, from caring teacher in the opening number to raging homophobe. The shift doesn’t translate well.
One would also expect technical perfection in a professional touring production, but the mics failed to pick up many of the times Layton flipped into his high head voice. Hopefully, that will be quickly fixed in the run.
Everybody’s Talking About Jamie is at its best when characters are blasting back and forth witty dialogue, not when breaking into sometimes verging-on-cringey songs. It feels as though the show might even work better as a play than a musical.
Everybody’s Talking About Jamie is at the the Lyceum Theatre, until 29 February and then on a nation-wide tour until August.
Featured Image: Shane Richie as Loco Chanelle and Layton Williams as Jamie alongside the Drag Queens. Photo Credit: Matt Crockett.