Theatre Review: EVERYBODY’S TALKING ABOUT JAMIE – The Lowry, Salford

EVERYBODY'S TALKING ABOUT JAMIE 2019 UK Tour

EVERYBODY’S TALKING ABOUT JAMIE is a funny, fabulous and feel-good show about self-discovery and empowerment.

5 out of 5 stars

It’s fair to say that EVERYBODY’S TALKING ABOUT JAMIE has come a long way since its premiere at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield back in 2017. Following a successful West End run the same year, the smash-hit musical has taken the world by storm, with a North American premiere set for next year and a big-screen version arriving on Amazon Prime in September. In fact, if the audience reaction at Salford’s The Lowry is anything to go by, this musical is showing no signs of slowing down.

Inspired by a 2011 BBC documentary about a teenager who was banned from his school’s prom for wanting to go in a dress, EVERYBODY’S TALKING ABOUT JAMIE follows 16-year-old Jamie (Layton Williams), who lives on a council estate in Sheffield. Desperate to be himself and encouraged by his mum (Amy Ellen Richardson) and his best friend Pritti (Sharan Phull), Jamie overcomes prejudice, beats the bullies and steps out of the darkness and into the spotlight to become a drag queen.

EVERYBODY'S TALKING ABOUT JAMIE 2019 UK Tour

It’s clear from the opening number, AND YOU DON’T EVEN KNOW IT, that this is a funny, fabulous and feel-good show. Anna Fleischle set, and costume design captures the frenetic energy of being a teenager, with its high-impact blaze of colour and innovative video projections helping to transition between scenes. Every element of this show works beautifully together, from Dan Gillespie’s irresistibly catchy original pop score to Matt Ryan’s delicate direction that mixes up the pace. Even Tom MacRae’s punchy, funny and whip-smart script has been given a refresh for 2021, with a fun dose of Covid-related comedy.

West End star Layton Williams reprises his role as the soft-spoken Jamie, playing the teenager with charm and touching vulnerability. He is charismatically sharp and sassy during the showstoppers like LIMITED EDITION PROM NIGHT SPECIAL yet deftly reveals the ache of vulnerability behind his character’s catwalk strut in numbers like UGLY IN THIS UGLY WORLD.

The supporting cast is equally excellent, particularly Shane Richie as faded drag star Loco Chanelle, Sharan Phull as Jamie’s best friend Pritti, who gives an assured performance of IT MEANS BEAUTIFUL and Shobna Gulati as straight-talking family friend Ray.

EVERYBODY'S TALKING ABOUT JAMIE 2019 UK Tour

But it is Amy Ellen Richardson who truly steals the limelight as Jamie’s mum Margaret, her spine-tingling of IF I MET MYSELF AGAIN and HE’S MY BOY delivering on all the feels and gaining her a well-deserved standing ovation from the audience.

The whole evening is beautifully choreographed by Kate Prince and superbly performed by the live band who is suspended above the stage.

But this is more than just a story about sequins, glitter and drag queens – it’s about life, love and stepping out of the darkness and into the spotlight. In fact, EVERYBODY’S TALKING ABOUT JAMIE is a joyous journey of self-discovery and empowerment.

No wonder everybody’s talking about it.

EVERYBODY’S TALKING ABOUT JAMIE runs at The Lowry, Salford, until 12 September 2021.