I was there. That’s what they’ll say. 20 years from now when Jamie is touring the globe and entertaining millions of people each week from all walks of life with his beautiful story – “I was there that night they performed to the public for the very first time in Sheffield’s Crucible Theatre”.
Everybody’s Talking About Jamie has been a long process for those involved, and taking it from workshops over three years ago to a full-blown, (literally) all singing and dancing stage show has been no easy process for director Jonathan Butterell and writers Tom McCrae & Dan Gillespie Sells…
The story is based on BBC documentary, Jamie Campbell: Drag Queen at 16 – but don’t underestimate, this is so much more than a story about a boy in a dress. Re-imaged as Jamie New (played incredibly by John McCrea), a 16-year old from the magnificent Steel City – the show focusses not only on him fighting for the right to wear a dress to prom, but his friendships with his peers, relationships with his parents and the views of those surrounding.
Regardless of your background, there will absolutely be something you can relate to in this revelation of a musical – whether that be our protagonist’s best friend (Pritti, portrayed by Lucie Shorthouse who was absolutely sublime) calling out the school bully, stating: “After tonight, I start getting on with my life but you? You’re stuck here – big fish in a little pond no more”, or Jamie’s turbulent but utterly inspiring relationship with his mum, this has something for everyone.
This is not to say you’ll leave Sheffield’s Crucible Theatre feeling the need to re-evaluate your life (although I did call my mum afterwards); Everybody’s Talking About Jamie is filled with upbeat, classic pop songs which I guarantee you’ll be humming afterwards – most of which are performed by the outstanding ensemble who double up in most roles and play the part of “Yaaarkshire” 16 year olds frighteningly well. It’s toe-tapping, uplifting and monumentally fun.
The one thing the MK team really took away from this musical was Jamie’s relationship with his mum, Margaret. Portrayed by Josie Walker, this performance was heart-breaking, passionate, exhilarating and incredibly powerful – she told the story of every parent, the fear of letting your child go into the big bad world to explore the unknown & the sudden realisation that they don’t depend on you anymore. Her solo number had Caroline and I in tears, her as a mum and I thinking about my own parents – powerful stuff.
Hugo (sorry, Miss Loco), portrayed by Charles Dale, and her band of utterly FABULOUS Drag Queens brought humour and lift to the show which added to the overall joy but didn’t take away from the serious messages so heavily and genuinely intended throughout.
The thing I loved above and beyond anything else in this musical (and I’m a huge fan of show tunes, so this doesn’t come lightly) is how fantastically it represented Sheffield. Our beautiful, diverse and cultural city was shown in a beautiful light throughout and the references to iconic places (Meadowhall, Crystal Peaks, Southey Green…you get the idea) were a lovely homage to our pretty city which set a smile upon everyone’s face.
I’ll leave you with a quote from Mr Jamie New himself:
“Sometimes…you’ve just got to grab life by the balls…then take those balls, tuck ‘em between your legs and PUT YOUR BEST F***ING FROCK ON” – preach it Jamie, preach it.