Everybody's Talking About Jamie | Review

After West End Live me and my Mum compiled a list of the shows we wanted to see, and in what order. Everybody's Talking About Jamie was the first show to perform on Saturday so it was always going to stay in our minds but it was the catchy songs and humour that made it stick the most. I knew the story of Jamie Campbell (the real life Jamie) beforehand and watched the documentary however my Mum hadn't, but we were both equally as excited to watch it in musical form! We both share the same favourite when it comes to musicals, which is Les Mis, and it's not exactly the most uplifting story out there so we were both eager to watch something that would make us laugh and smile, and it delivered on both of them.

Inspired by a true story, Everybody's Talking About Jamie is the multi-award-winning hit musical for today.

Jamie New is sixteen and lives on a council estate in Sheffield.

Jamie doesn't quite fit in.

Jamie is terrified about the future.

Jamie is going to be a sensation.

Supported by his brilliant loving mum and surrounded by his friends, Jamie overcomes prejudice, beats the bullies and steps out of the darkness, into the spotlight. 

The story follows Jamie New as he starts the journey to becoming a drag queen, but it also heavily focuses on his relationship with his Mum and how his peers at school react to his path in life. You meet quite a few big personalities and important characters along the way, including his best friend Pritti, his bully Dean, his absent Dad and the fabulous drag queens. It's a story of growing up, finding yourself and staying true to who you are. Something I noticed was that there appeared to be a lot of parent's with their children in the audience which I thought was really nice since the story focuses quite heavily on Jamie's relationship with his Mum, Margaret.

The first thing you'll notice when you take your seat is the stage, small compared to others but perfect for this show. It starts off so simple, with just desks on the stage, but the set transforms throughout the show to become Jamie's home, a shop and more. It's a really simple and clever design and the transitions between scenes are smooth, I have to say when I entered the auditorium I didn't expect much from the set but I was pleasantly surprised. One of my immediate thoughts was that it appeared to be more like a play rather than a musical based on my first glimpse of the stage and I was half right as the show had a lot more dialogue than I expected and am used to.

Considering the fact that my two favourite shows have either no or little dialogue, I didn't know how I would react to a show like this with a lot more speaking to accompany the music. There were definitely times where I lost concentration and felt the conversations were going on for a little too long but for the most part I really enjoyed seeing something with more speaking. It took a little while for things to build up and the second half was definitely better than the first, but this is often true for a lot of shows.

More dialogue allows space for more humour and this is something this show has in abundance, I knew it would make me laugh but I didn't realise how often I'd be giggling. Within the first minute the audience was laughing and I knew then I was in for a treat. John McCrea who plays Jamie New had me howling, his timing was incredible and he was fantastically over the top. I really cannot fault John's performance as Jamie, he has so much stage presence.

As for the music, written by Dan Gillespie Sells (frontman of The Feeling), It Means Beautiful is up there with my favourites which is sung by the incredibly talented Lucie Shorthouse who plays Jamie's best friend, Pritti Pasha. It was one of only 3 songs that I listened to prior to the show and it was even more beautiful to listen to in person. It was a really special moment in the show where everything was stripped back. The Wall In My Head is another that stands out when it comes to the slower, more emotional songs and this is sung by Jamie, the vocals blew me away and it was nice to see Jamie in a more raw moment. I think the lyrics in it are so relevant and something we can all relate to. I have to also of course give a mention to He's My Boy too, when I saw the show Rebecca McKinnis had been in the role of Margaret New for about a week (although I believe she was the understudy for the character prior to taking on the role full time) and I was so blown away by how comfortable and confident she seemed in the role, and she had the whole audience captivated when she sang the ballad. He's My Boy is the obvious one to mention when it comes to Margaret but I also loved If I Met Myself again, and thought that the dancing that accompanied it was beautiful.

And You Don't Even Know It was what I saw at West End Live and it was even better seeing it in all it's glory with the set and full choreography. It really is the finale that I absoletely loved though and had me dancing along, Out Of The Darkness/A Place Where We Belong really sums up the show and encompasses how fun the show is, and how much it will make you smile. It's one of these songs that is a million times better in person compared to the cast recording. I have to also applaud the impressive quick change between the prom dresses and suits to the characters everyday clothes during the end of the show!

There is one moment during the show that I was aware of beforehand after watching a review of the show on Youtube, so I was prepared for it but I do have to give it a mention because it really bothered me. The word retard is used in the show and what surprised me the most is that it's used by Jamie. Now, I understand that that word is probably still used in schools but I think it's both unnecessary in this show and confusing that the character that we are supposed to get behind is the one using it. As a disabled person it's something that I just can't see past and I'd personally like to see it removed from the show as it really doesn't serve any purpose.

Moving on to the access, I was quite excited when I found out that the wheelchair spaces in the Apollo Theatre are in the stalls as I'd never sat in the stalls as a wheelchair user. There are two wheelchair spaces which are 2 removable seats at either end of row Q and they are accessed via a separate door which is to the left of the main entrance. Access is provided via a platform via which is essentially a big stair lift for wheelchairs, it took me by surprise a little as it goes down quite a steep flight of stairs. The maximum weight limit for the lift is 300kg, the measurements aren't on the website but it's plenty wide enough but not very long, I tilted back so that my footplate hung over the edge. I'd suggest sending over an email to the theatre to get the exact measurements. The weight limit and size of the lift could be a problem for large powerchairs unfortunately.

There is quite a steep incline in the stalls, which you should be aware of if you are sitting in Q22 and need to use the accessible toilet which is on the other side of the the theatre. I also had to tilt back quite far to level myself out, something to be aware of. It's not the biggest accessible toilet but I had just enough room to turn around in my mid-wheel drive powerchair. You can't access the bars but staff are happy to get drinks for you and programmes and ice creams are available to buy in the stalls, I bought my programme from a staff member who was metres from the accessible toilet.

As for the view, this was the first time I'd ever been able to see the whole stage as a wheelchair user. It's a shame that this is so rare for me, I made sure to enjoy every moment of not having to twist and bend to see as much as possible. I was able to sit back, relax and enjoy every moment of the performance. My Mum however did struggle with the lack of leg room and the uncomfortable seats, she has the same condition as me so was in a lot of pain by the end so I'd be aware of this if you're disabled.

I have sensitive hearing and I jump/scare easily, especially at loud noises, so I really appreciated that there weren't any sudden loud noises throughout the show, it's probably the first time I've not sat with my hands by my ears ready to block them during a show, I've even started using ear plugs but they weren't need here!

So, my final thoughts. I was very happy to see all the stage, I loved the music and felt the show really got going in the second half and I really appreciated the witty and clever humour. I think it should be on every theatre fans list of shows to see and at the same time it would also be perfect for those who aren't usually theatre goers. It's a feel good show that is guaranteed to have you smiling and dancing along by the end!

Find out more about the show and buy tickets on the Everybody's Talking About Jamie website.

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