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Review – Everybody’s Talking About Jamie (UK Tour) – Empire Theatre, Liverpool

RETURNING to the Liverpool Empire stage this week is the current UK tour of Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, and stepping into the heels previously occupied by John McCrea, Layton Williams and Noah Thomas is the fourth Jamie to take the role – Ivano Turco. If you didn’t know of the previous incumbents of the part, you could be forgiven for thinking it was written for him.

The story needs almost no introduction, with the television documentary which inspired it reminding us that this is very much based in reality. Jamie, who decides that he wants to make a career as a drag queen, is backed by a wonderfully supportive mother and spurned by a scornful absentee father, but it is in the school environment that most of the narrative really unfolds. The teaching and careers advice staff are less than encouraging about his aspirations – especially when it comes to attending the school prom in full drag – but his classmates, despite initially following the usual ribaldry this might be expected to invoke, soon get behind the idea and stage a protest that turns the situation around.

Of course this is all aided by the intervention of legendary drag artist Loco Chanelle (AKA Hugo) who gets on board and helps Jamie get a shoe in the door with a debut gig at a local club.

Joining this new cast in the role of Hugo/Loco is ‘Strictly’ star Kevin Clifton, and both he and Turco really deliver. Alongside them is an ensemble cast that includes some very strong supporting performances, notably from Talia Palamathanan as Jamie’s friend Pritti, Sam Bailie as Miss Hedge and Jordan Ricketts, who is perfect as the school bully Dean who soon finds himself out of his depth, out of support, and very definitely out of his comfort zone.

Anna Fleischle’s geometric set makes great use of the stage and unfolds to reveal some neat concealments. It also serves as a home for the onstage band, who give us a well balanced accompaniment to the excellent vocals from the entire cast.

When it first appeared at Sheffield Theatres in 2017, Jamie met with a mixed critical response, with some finding its treatment of the story rather slight. Time, and an impressive array of awards, have definitely turned this opinion around, and the deceptively simple narrative style enables the show to speak clearly and boldly to its audience, with genuine directness and honesty.

Everybody’s Talking About Jamie is an upbeat show that can’t fail to lift your spirits, and it plays at the Liverpool Empire until Saturday.

Star rating: 4½ stars
Review by Nigel Smith

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