Everybody’s Talking About Jamie at Bristol Hippodrome – a dazzling musical with a strong message

Bristol fans of Everybody’s Talking About Jamie had to wait a year to see this smash-hit West End musical.

Originally planned for October 2020, its first visit to the city was delayed because of Covid and the theatre’s enforced closure.

Judging by the rapturous reaction as soon as the lights dimmed, it was clearly worth the wait. You will laugh, sing and cry but there is never a dull moment.

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This is one of the most talked about musicals in years and after more than 1,000 performances on West End stages, it’s on the road and touring the UK for the first time.

It’s the story of a gay 16-year-old boy called Jamie whose biggest secret is the fact he wants to become a drag queen – a brave move when you live on a tough northern council estate and have a disapproving and absent father.

Based on the true story of Jamie Campbell, it started out as a TV documentary but it was soon picked up by Doctor Who writer Tom MacRae who joined forces with Dan Gillespie Sells, lead singer and songwriter of The Feeling.

The result is one of the true modern classics of musical theatre, a show that has an original score packed with memorable songs and choreography, but also strong messages and themes about inclusivity and acceptance.

It would be all too easy to dismiss Everybody’s Talking About Jamie as simply a hybrid of Priscilla Queen of The Desert and Billy Elliot despite the obvious similarities.

Unlike many musicals which are heavy on big numbers and light on dialogue, this one is more of a play with great songs.

Veteran star Shane Richie brings humility to the role of frock store owner Hugo, who becomes something of a father-like figure to Jamie, whose own dad has disowned him.

Although his northern accent occasionally dipped back into the cockney twang of his EastEnders character Alfie Moon on occasion, Richie is a class act and he never tried to grab the limelight, even when he reappeared in full drag as his alter ego Loco Chanelle.

Everyone's Talking About Jamie at Bristol Hippodrome
Everyone’s Talking About Jamie at Bristol Hippodrome
(Image: MATT CROCKETT)

There was also strong support from Sharan Phull as Pritti Pasha, the Muslim schoolfriend who sticks by Jamie through thick and thin. Her solo, It Means Beautiful, displayed a strong voice.

Coronation Street and Dinner Ladies star Shobna Gulati drew plenty of laughs as feisty, potty-mouthed family friend Ray and Amy Ellen Richardson’s well-drawn portrayal of Jamie’s supportive mum, Margaret, certainly had most of the audience dabbing tears away, especially in the rousing and heart-tugging stand-out song He’s My Boy.

But it was, of course, Layton Williams as Jamie who shone brightest from the moment he appeared.

Williams, who played the title role of Billy in the West End production of Billy Elliot, has made the part of Jamie his own with his sassy confidence, superb dancing and strong voice. He oozes star quality.

Actually, if Williams had any competition at all it was from the real-life Jamie and his mum, who were in the stalls on the first night.

Resplendent in pale pink dress, Jamie Campbell spent the entire interval and after-show having selfies with fans. He’s clearly loving every moment of his new-found fame.

What started out as a documentary has grown into a hit musical and film. If that’s not a fairytale come true, I don’t know what is.

Everybody’s Talking About Jamie runs at the Bristol Hippodrome until Saturday, October 23.

For tickets, head to the ATG Tickets website.

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