Last night was the much-anticipated opening night of the hit musical Everybody's Talking About Jamie. Following a triumphant three-year West End residency, a sold-out UK and Ireland Tour, and an award-winning film, this production definitely lived up to those high expectations and proved to be an unforgettable experience.
With a quick start, diving right into the hectic frenzy of the modern-day classroom, the opening scene did not draw attention to Jamie – despite him being positioned at centre stage. Instead, our attention darted between each of his classmates, and only was Jamie noticed upon being broken from a daydream by his teacher. This clever introduction skilfully highlighted the universal experience of blending in, and how easy it is to go unnoticed in a school setting.
The experience of a UK comprehensive school is a not-so distant memory for me, and I have to say one of the show's notable strengths of this show was its accurate portrayal of those final months of school. Unlike other productions which tend to force awkward youth lingo, Everybody's Talking About Jamie depicted the school setting with ease, presenting an authentic representation without resorting to clichés or stereotypes. This nuanced approach added depth to the characters and resonated with the audience's own memories.
Ivano Turco, who played Jamie, delivered stunning performance. His effortless and angelic voice became the emotional core of the production, flawlessly embodying Jamie's journey with grace and authenticity. You could really feel how much this part meant to the actor, he was honest and true to the role.
Rebecca McKinnis who played Jamie's mother Margaret, and Shobna Gulati as Margaret's best friend and honorary father figure, delivered heartfelt and emotional portrayals of those caring and comforting parental figures, who at no point blended into background characters, carrying their complex and difficult storylines depicting the life of a single mother. Darren Day too, in the role of Jamie's fabulous mentor Hugo, added a touch of glamour and charisma that enriched the overall tapestry of the production.
The choreography by Kate Prince was a visual feast, complementing the infectious energy that pulsed through the entire performance. The production maintained a relentless pace from the first note to the final bow with no lulls in energy throughout the evening.
Everybody's Talking About Jamie had the task of exploring some really hard-hitting themes such as self-discovery, homophobia, bullying and being squashed into a box that isn’t your shape in the name of ‘being real’. A standout moment was the portrayal of bullies, seamlessly transitioning from light-hearted but cutting classroom banter to genuine cruelty. The tone shifted palpably, impactfully mirroring the harsh realities of the real world.
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Photo Credit Matt Crockett