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Everybody's Talking About Jamie (Peacock Theatre)

(seen at the afternoon performance on 14th February 2024)

It is very heartening that then unfamiliar ideas contained in a musical which opened in 2017 are now mainstream. 

Whereas everybody once spoke of people like Jamie as being so far outside “the norm” as to be isolated from society, a change in approach to gender fluidity and our wider understanding and tolerance of it now make some of this show seem almost anachronistic.

The original production had (from its 2018 opinion), 
“The monkey... babbling incoherently, sobbing occasionally and gesticulating anybody within range towards the box office.”

This touring revival features almost the same Anna Fleischle design - minus the light-up floor, Matt Ryan direction and Kate Prince choreography, and Gillespie Sells and MacRae songs that continue to blow the hotpants and high heels off.

If Paul Groothuis’s sound design is a little too hard from the centre of the front row where the monkey was, it is at least crisp, allowing the cast (a mixture of newcomers and West End run veterans) to shine.

Ivano Turco is a very different Jamie New from original John Macrae. Turco never uses claws to slash fast and snap a retort. Instead, a worldliness carries him. More empathetic perhaps, sure of where he is going and with less need to fight. The monkey noted the heavily strapped left ankle too, and wishes him a very speedy recovery.

Mother Margaret allows Rebecca McKinnis to stop the show in both halves, with "If I Met Myself Again" and "He's My Boy"- the latter a centre stage declaration of love and survival as only a single parent surviving on hope and Twox bars can make.

Best friend Ray (Shobna Gulati) delivers an equally fine “Limited Edition Prom Night Special” and a beautifully timed office scene with resigned careers teacher Miss Hedge (Giovanna Fletcher). Ray’s quick survival instincts are no match for a teacher who feels reduced to enforcing the system to survive in it.

Determined to succeed because of it, Jamie’s best friend Pritti Pasha (Talia Palamathanan) provides an outstanding solo “It Means Beautiful” to Adam Smith’s simple solo guitar accompaniment. That she will have a life beyond the school bully’s reach is never in doubt.

In fairness, Jordan Ricketts’s Dean is a bully bright enough to know when he is beaten. Nicely judged and nuanced, he elicits a little sympathy which is almost appropriate.

Among the rest of the class, Jessica Daugirda as Bex has a strong dance moment, and with her gang make the cups routine in the background of the revision sequence look simple as well as providing tuneful backing vocals.

For the Drag Queens, John Partridge as Hugo, aka “Loco Chanelle” is a font of skewed wisdom, dodgy confidence, and stunning dresses. Unforgettable as his alter-ego, delivering his story both in song and comedy moments.

Even if time has diminished the impact a little, this remains a ray of light for anyone who chooses to be different, to defy their background and the expectations of those around them. Still one of the best British musical theatre scores of the past decade, it is a show everybody should be talking about and must take the opportunity to see when it comes their way. 

4 stars.

Tour Dates until July 2024.

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