YOU WILL see reviewers write about ‘long-awaited shows’ but this one really was – it was on that fateful night in March last year when we walked through the doors of the Alexandra Theatre to see ‘Everybody’s Talking About Jamie’ to be told the Prime Minister had announced that evening all theatres would be closed to ‘stop the spread’.
Last night – after an eventful 18 months (apart from the entertainment industry) we were back in that same theatre – my first review back – a kind of ‘carrying on where we left off’.
And the wait was worth it – this musical was ‘Fabulous’ (capital F intended) and you could tell the audience was relishing returning to the auditorium and enjoying every moment.
In case you do not know (where have you been) the story centres on 16-year-old Jamie who dreams of being a drag queen which raises a few eyebrows with his career teacher but is embraced by his mum and her friend. His peers need convincing.
There are so many social messages in this production – about friendship, relationships, parenting and life in general – all delivered with plenty of comedy – great one-liners that kept a steady flow of giggles and climaxing in some real laugh-out-loud moments.
The second half was more serious as the emotional rollercoaster we were being taken on reached its peak.
Of the cast, Shobna Gulati as Ray and Jamie’s mum Margaret (Amy Ellen Richardson) had great on-stage chemistry and the vocal highlight of the night was Richardson’s ‘He’s My Boy’ solo in the second act.
Shane Ritchie as Hugo (aka drag queen Loco Chanelle) was among the crowd’s favourites. He was crass when he needed to be, but also kind in his role inspiring Jamie New to ‘follow the right path’.
Lara Denning excelled as teacher Miss Hedge – you could tell she loved every minute playing her part and George Sampson rose in the role of repulsive school bully Dean Paxton.
Pritti Pasha was beautifully played by Sharan Phull and the most touching moments in this musical came between her and Layton Williams aa Jamie.
And what a performance Williams put in – from start to finish his timing was impeccable – whether it was the sharp comedic lines he needed to deliver or the more poignant parts of this script, this was a role he was meant to play.
Credit has to go to the ‘Mayfield School Class of 2020’ as well whose dance performances were faultless – they were in all the best choregraphed numbers and also provided the foil for the main characters to take centre stage.
The set was clever with a backdrop which started out as those large school windows we all remember but instantly changeable to become a house, street and even a fashion boutique.
And the pandemic – which impacted so harshly on this production – was even incorporated – there were masks in the classroom and references to the virus which has plagued our lives for the past year-and-a-half.
Live theatre is back – not before time – and this was the perfect production to hail its return.
Everybody’s Talking About Jamie runs until Saturday before continuing on its tour.
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