Everybody is Talking about Jamie: Showing at the Crucible Sheffield until 25th February

Well certainly this morning, I have the catchy chorus of the opening song (which is briefly repeated in second half) in my head “I’m a superstar and you don’t even know it”. On the Crucible website for Jamie, there is a you tube clip of the opening number, the song is entitled “Don’t Even Know it”. The opening scene is in a school classroom during a careers advice lesson. A lot of the class wants fame and the teacher is trying to manage expectations. Jamie initially is sat at the back of the class and the first dialogue is with teacher and the other pupils. Once you remember the play is meant to be set around Jamie, you can identify him by his pink socks under school trousers. The blurb for the production states Jamie has a secret; from the accompanying photos it is not hard to work out Jamie wants to be a drag Queen. Teacher believes that Jamie would be better suited to being a forklift truck driver. At which point Jamie breaks into “I’m a superstar and you don’t even know it”. This musical number can be seen in a YouTube clip on the theatre website.

https://www.sheffieldtheatres.co.uk/whats-on/everybodystalking-jamie In the background of the clip there is an impressive backdrop; a  simple structure consisted of steel boxes; the boxes are two stories high with the orchestra sitting in the top box. Later in the show the boxes are moved around to create different settings.

The play is based upon a true story of a teenager called Jamie who wanted to be a drag Queen. The original Jamie was from County Durham, he approached the BBC to do a documentary about him, because he wanted cameras to follow him around to protect him from bullies. This 2011 documentary was seen by Jonathon Butterell who was at that time living in New York although he had been born in Sheffield. The show’s destiny was triggered by Jonathon meeting Daniel Evan’s who was artistic director of Sheffield theatres at the time and commissioned the play. The stars aligned for Jonathon to collaborate with by screen writer Tom MacRae and the song writer for the Feeling Dan Gillspie Spell. In the three years that this musical has been in development transgender issues in school has become increasingly topical and Daniel Evans last year moved on from Sheffield theatres. The show’s setting is Jonathon’s birth place Sheffield providing familiar references to Sheffielders like Meadowhell.

The soundtrack to the show is to be available as an album. I would buy the single   ‘Don’t even know it’ but not sure about the rest of the album; perhaps it needs to be heard separate to the show . In fact I would have preferred, the show as a play without the songs or as many songs. There was some suburb dialogue; some of which had the audience laughing particularly with the Sheffield references; other parts were painfully observed of life as a teenager in school trying to fit in; being the boy who wants to wear a dress or the clever underestimated girl in the hijab. During songs I wanted to get back to the plot and felt the songs distracted from the poignancy of the plot. The brilliantly observed school scenes and Jamie’s home life with his supportive Mum covering for his absent Father. There could still been some music; ‘Don’t even know itit could have been song by Jamie in a performing mode. I think a good final scene would have been the prom allowing the show to end with feel good music.

There was certainly a good feeling within the audience at the end after they had followed Jamie’s story from his first tottering steps in his first heels to his prom. In fact there was a good atmosphere from the start owing to it being the world premiere and families and friends of those involved in the show being in the audience. Before the show I ate at Crucible Corner where Sophie Ellis Bexter (whose vocals along with those of Betty Boo feature on the album) and her Mum Janet Ellis were at the next table to support Sophie’s husband bandmate from the Feeling Dan Gillespie Sells. At the end of the show the original Jamie and his Mum joined the cast on stage, in a touching ending. Right until the end leaving stage there was a realistic rapport between the actors playing  Jamie (John McCrea) and his Mum (Josie Walker). The actors playing Pritti (Lusie Shorthouse) and Leigh (Mina Anwar) were also outstanding.

Josie Walker playing Jamie’s supportive self sacrificing Mum

The ending left some in tears of joy and seemingly most of the audience in good spirits; it may not have quite the same impact without the original Jamie and his Mum on stage at the end. Alas I think most people who like theatre  will leave with something to talk about and will hopefully have enjoyed it too, like I did.




Author: wonderwall360blog

So many wonders of the world to write about on my blog wall. I'm an Oasis fan hence using wondewall as blog name.

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