The fabulous musical Everybody’s Talking About Jamie burst on to the Crucible stage in February 2017, starring John McCrea as the teen wannabe drag queen who decided to go to his school prom in a dress.
The show went on to take the West End and then the world by storm, before being made into a film shot in Sheffield.
This week the West End show’s touring version returns to the Lyceum for its second national run with Layton Williams in the title role and EastEnders star Shane Richie playing his drag mentor Hugo/Loco Chanelle.
John McCrea was extraordinary as Jamie’s creator but Layton has made the role all his own now – he’s a brilliant mixture of vulnerable and cocky, insecure and sassy, and completely convincing as a teenager dealing with being gay and attracting the right and wrong kinds of attention.
I remember the first time I saw him on stage was at the Crucible performing a show-stopping version of Too Darn Hot in Kiss Me Kate in December 2018. I was sitting next to the real Jamie Campbell and his mum Margaret, who told me they were there to see Layton as he was about to take over the role of Jamie.
‘He can act, sing and dance in huge heels’
I had to rush away to write up my review and as I left I whispered to Jamie (who was in a gorgeous gold top and sparkly trousers – see the picture of him in the show programme) “I think you’re in safe hands”.
Layton is the classic musical theatre ‘triple threat’ – he can act, sing and dance in huge heels, he has charm and personality that are as big as those red heels.
Shane Richie is a revelation as Hugo/Loco – he brings some dramatic depth to the role, looks incredible in drag and can sell a song.
All the characters who are close to Jamie are equally good – Amy Ellen Richardson is warm, fierce and sympathetic as mum Margaret and she has a stunning voice, especially in second-half heart melters such as He’s My Boy.
Sasha Latoya is funny and feisty as Margaret’s best friend Ray, the sort of woman you want by your side cheering you on.
But my absolute favourite of the supporting cast is Sharan Phull as Jamie’s best friend Pritti. She’s a bookish young Muslim woman who wants to be a doctor and is bullied for it, which creates a bond with a young gay boy who is similarly picked on for his dreams.
Sharan also has a wonderful voice used to great effect in the song It Means Beautiful.
The whole cast, including the funny school students, pull together really well. Cameron Johnson as Jamie’s homophobic dad, Lara Denning as his teacher, George Sampson from Britain’s Got Talent as school bully Dean and the trio of drag acts all make the most of smaller roles.
You can tell this is a show that has been on the go for a while – nobody misses a beat, the orchestra sound great and everything moves smoothly.
It can’t recapture the excitement of watching a new show fly but it’s still great fun.