Everybody’s Talking About Jamie – Review – Sheffield Lyceum
By Gail Schuster, April 2022
We were enjoying a pre-performance Italian meal. “Doing anything else nice tonight?” asked our waiter pleasantly. “Yes, we’re off to see the musical, Everybody’s Talking About Jamie. “Oh, I haven’t been to the theatre for ages, I should get myself there, but I wonder whether the cast is the same as the West End. Who is playing Jamie?”
Layton Williams is Jamie, the title role he also took in the London production, and he smashed it. He brought exuberance and vulnerability to the character of the young 16-year-old with a dream of being a drag queen. Williams is probably best known for being Stephen in the BBC’s Bad Education, but started his career aged 12 as Billy Elliot in the eponymous musical and played a young Michael Jackson in Thriller Live! As would be expected of a performer with such credits, the singing and dancing were sublime, and the comic lines delivered perfectly, but he wasn’t the only shining star in this evening of glitter and glamour.
The performance of Jamie’s mum, by Amy Ellen Richardson was wonderful and I particularly enjoyed the poignancy of both of her ballads, ‘If I Met Myself Again’ and ‘He’s My Boy’. The former about mistakes made in youth and the latter about the pleasures and pain of unconditional parental love.
Jamie’s metamorphosis from gauche adolescent to confident, fearless Mimi Me, his drag persona, was aided by meeting Hugo/Loco Chanelle, played by Shane Ritchie, owner of the local shop, Victor’s Secrets. Ritchie, who has been in show business for 40 years, and has appeared in many television productions including Eastenders, Benidorm and Minder, as well as having theatre and film credits, was wonderful and charismatic in both personas. However, a mention must be made too of the fabulous and funny Legs Eleven Girls who accompany Loco Chanelle; Laika Virgin, Sandra Bollock and Tray Sophisticay, portrayed by John Paul McCue, Garry Lee and Rhys Taylor respectively.
Throughout Jamie’s journey from school to stage, he was supported by a strong trio of women; his mother, Ray, her companion and Pritti Pasha, his best friend. Ray, acted by Sasha Latoya, an onlooker who was happy to give her opinions and be almost another parent to Jamie. Latoya played brilliantly sassy Ray with energy and pizzazz. However, I loved the performance of Pritti by Sharan Phull. It is not often you see women in hijabs in musicals and Phull’s interpretation of the studious, quiet friend was outstanding.
Her portrayal of Pritti also brings to attention some of the conflicts a young Muslim woman may still face at school. In this way the production looks at other issues of diversity than may be first suggested by the main story. Phull’s voice was beautiful and clear, and she gave the character humanity and humour and gently challenged stereotypes. She truly shone bright singing ‘Beautiful’ in her bedroom decorated with space theming. It wasn’t just Jamie who was, “A little bit of glitter in the grey.”
This is a wonderful musical from the singing and dancing to costumes and sets. It is an exuberant celebration of that awkward time of life, the transition to adulthood. It is a modern day fairy-tale where our hero gets transformed from drab school uniform in industrial Sheffield, to a glamourous drag queen who has her whole life ahead of her and for whom the world is waiting to be explored. It is a story of overcoming adversity, bullying, rejection and being oneself. So, if you too haven’t been to the theatre for ages, then go and get your glad rags on and shimmy down to the Lyceum for an evening of pure joy and entertainment.