As much as the Olivier Awards have improved over the years, I am still not such a fan. Firstly, the categories are nonsensical. Secondly, in more years than not you have productions imported from America or tried and tested revivals sweeping up awards and gaining more attention than they frankly need. This means that it is difficult for new shows created in the UK to compete and they can be easily overlooked. One such show is ‘Everybody’s Talking About Jamie’. Although it had a few nominations it came away from the 2018 ceremony empty-handed.
Despite this lack of Olivier attention, I have felt a palpable buzz around it from word of mouth and social media. It follows Jamie New, a teenage boy who is determined to attend his end of school prom in a dress and was inspired by the BBC documentary “Jamie: Drag Queen at 16”. I finally saw it and am so pleased that this show is running on the West End. There are so many positive elements to celebrate which I don’t think are showcased enough on stage.
At the heart of the story is this relationship Jamie has with his single mother. His mum is flawed but does her upmost to support and encourage Jamie to be the best version of himself. Jamie is fabulous and can’t help being so. Typically, there is a negative narrative around the coming out process of LGBTQ+ characters. But it was great that in this show we see how Jamie’s immediate family embrace his inclination to wear dresses and high heels from the start and don’t perceive it as a burden to overcome.
Jamie is brilliantly played by John McCrea. He has an impressive vocal range and golden comedic timing. The show is a marathon with energetic contemporary choreography but he carries it on his shoulders, dancing and strutting in high heels I wouldn’t ever dare to try on. Another favourite character of mine was Pritti Pasha portrayed by Lucie Shorthouse. It’s slightly disappointing to say that in the multiple shows that I’ve seen, she’s most likely the first character I’ve seen on stage wearing a hijab.
The songs, with music by Dan Gillespie Sells and lyrics by Tom Macrae are also enjoyable. In the opening number Jamie boasts “I’m the shit and you don’t even know it” which is something people who feel marginalised and in the minority don’t often sing about and probably should do more of. “The Wall in My Head” is also a great anthem for tearing down those mental barriers which prevent us from being the version of ourselves. Overall it is a feel-good coming of age musical which I would highly recommend. It confirms to me that the Olivier Awards are not the best indicator of what to see on the West End right now and I’m not sure if they ever will be.