EVERYBODY’S TALKING ABOUT JAMIE | Apollo Theatre, London

It might still be too early to call — could this finally be the West End’s new Billy Elliot? A truly British musical, with mass appeal? It has everything Billy Elliot had and more: a boy in North England who doesn’t conform to gender stereotypes; killer songs; an outrageously funny script delivered by one of the finest ensemble casts the West End has ever seen. Judging by the screaming crowd, Everybody’s Talking About Jamie is here to stay.

The show relies heavily on its fabulous lead role, a 16-year-old who dreams of becoming a drag queen, and John McCrea is comic, vulnerable perfection. Lucie Shorthouse plays reserved Muslim best friend Pritti Pasha, in an award-nominated performance that features her stunning pop-princess vocal and heartbreaking acting. The entire cast of school kids, teachers and drag queens is one of the funniest and freshest you will ever see.

Songs by The Feeling songwriter-frontman Dan Gillespie-Sells (music) and Tom MacRae (lyrics) are a gorgeous, catchy mix of queenly disco and funky pop, along with some more soulful Dusty-Springfield-esque moments, all brought to life with outstanding choreography (Kate Prince). Tom MacRae’s book is laugh-out-loud, stop-the-show funny, and delivered with effortless comic timing by every member of the cast.

The musical has changed a lot since the documentary Jamie: Drag Queen at 16: Jamie Campbell is named “Jamie New”, moved from Durham to Sheffield, and given a new family and new schoolmates. Since its initial word-of-mouth sell-out run at the Sheffield Crucible, three new songs have been added and the direction (Jonathan Butterell) has been updated. But even with all these changes, Jamie’s inspiring story of being true to yourself remains heartfelt and genuine. See the original cast now so you can say, “I was there,” for a piece of West End history. It’s that good.

Everybody’s Talking About Jamie is currently booking till 21 April 2018.

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