Theatre review: Everybody’s Talking About Jamie at The Lowry, Salford

Layton Williams (Jamie New) in Everybody's Talking About Jamie

Layton Williams (Jamie New) in Everybody's Talking About Jamie - Credit: Matt Crockett

Everybody’s Talking About Jamie: A fabulous, feel-good, fun show that will have you leaping from your seat at the close 

There’s not a lot to say about the stage musical Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, other than book your tickets now. The perfect show to pick you up after a fairly shocking year, this musical is by turns hilarious, heart-breaking and inspiring. 

Shane Richie (Loco Chanelle), Layton Williams (Jamie New) and the Drag Queens in the Everybody's Talking About Jamie

Shane Richie (Loco Chanelle), Layton Williams (Jamie New) and the Drag Queens in the Everybody's Talking About Jamie Tour - Credit: Matt Crockett

The storyline is already well-known, based as it is on a true story, that of Sheffield’s Jamie New, who simply wanted to reflect his inner, true self, and wear a dress to his school prom. In this re-telling, while the storyline remains true to the original, so much of what is said could apply to anybody who stands out a little from ‘the norm’, or who feels like they don’t fit – a square peg in an endless board of round holes. 

Amy Ellen Richardson (Margaret) in the Everybody's Talking About Jamie Tour

Amy Ellen Richardson (Margaret) in the Everybody's Talking About Jamie Tour - Credit: Matt Crockett

The songs come from a collaboration between writer and lyricist Tom McRae and lead vocalist and principal songwriter for The Feeling, Dan Gillespie Sells. It’s a perfect coming together of storytelling and tunes, with a mix of heart-breaking solos and fabulous group numbers, all of which contribute as much to the tale as the spoken word does.  

The entire show is off such a high calibre it’s hard to say who gave the standout performance. Layton Williams, who plays Jamie, is simply outstanding. By turns bold and subdued, fabulously witty and typically teenage, he owns the stage whenever he walks upon it. Shane Ritchie, who plays drag queen Loco Chanel, is just superb, in a role he clearly relishes.

Shobna Gulati (Ray) in the Everybody's Talking About Jamie Tour. Photo credit Matt Crockett

Shobna Gulati (Ray) is the kind of best friend we all could do with - Credit: Matt Crockett

Shobna Gulati is marvellous in the role of Jamie’s mum’s best friend, Ray, and it is she who has the audience laughing most often, with one-liners that could be framed and sold, perfectly delivered. At one point she pauses, the audience holds its collective breath, and bam – there she goes: awesome. We could all do with a Ray in our lives. Margaret, Jamie’s mother, is more subdued; her role as a mother who simply wants the best for her son comes to a pinnacle in her soul-tearing solo, He’s My Boy, which reduced half the audience to sniffles and the rest to silent stoicism, until a roof-raising round of applause broke the spell she so beautifully cast.

Layton Williams (Jamie New) and Sharan Phull (Pritti) in the Everybody's Talking About Jamie

An unlikely but powerful friendship, Layton Williams (Jamie New) and Sharan Phull (Pritti) in Everybody's Talking About Jamie - Credit: Matt Crockett

Jamie’s best friend, Pritti Pasha, is also just wonderful – a young Muslim girl, initially shy and lacking in confidence, but who rises alongside Jamie to accept and celebrate herself and all her potential. And oh, what a voice! 

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Enough of my praise, however, this is one you really need to see for yourself. You will love it. And you will be on your feet at the end, along with every other member of the audience. 

Until 12 September, The Lowry, Salford