Notre Dame School, Sheffield, stages first ever school production of Everybody's Talking About Jamie

Everybody may have been talking about Jamie – but now they’re talking about Notre Dame School in Sheffield

Thursday, 16th December 2021, 11:22 am

The church school, at Ranmoor, has gone down in history as the first school to stage its own production of the iconic musical, Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, set in Sheffield, which had both its stage and film premiere at the Crucible Theatre in its city.

Now Notre Dame has performed the first teen version, at the Theatre Deli on Eyre Street.

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Stars including lead Max Harwood attend Everybody’s Talking About Jamie premiere...

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The cast of Everbody's talking about Jamie at the Deli Theatre get ready for their first performance of the school friendly version of the hit stage show

The teen edition is being specially developed especially for performance in schools, licenced by Concord Theatricals.

It is a pilot production performed by a group of pupils aged 12 to 18.

The plot is now well known. Jamie New is 16 and lives on a council estate in Sheffield. He doesn’t quite fit in. Jamie is terrified about the future, and wants to wear a dress. Supported by his mum and surrounded by his friends, he overcomes prejudice and beats the bullies.

Sixth former Josh James, who landed the role of Jamie after auditioning over the summer, loved the original show and is delighted to be the first school Jamie.

The cast of Everbody's talking about Jamie at the Deli Theatre get ready for their first performance of the school friendly version of the hit stage show

He said: “One of the first times it came to Sheffield, at the Crucible, I went on a school drama trip and saw it – it was amazing. I’ve still got the ticket at home in a special box because it was such a magical night.”

"It’s just so exciting (to be the first school Jamie). Genuinely – it’s an honour to be honest. Firstly, just to be the lead in any show is an honour, but then because it’s the first, it gives you such an opportunity to be powerful and express the important messages of the show about diversity.”

Notre Dame English teacher and director of the production, Paul O’Farrell, said the school had been keen to do the show, when the company that licences it, Concord Theatricals said they wanted a Sheffield school to premiere it. He said it felt like a coming home for Jamie.

“We were delighted to be asked to do it,” he said. “It does feel like a very nice finishing off of a story that starts and now comes back to Sheffield."

The cast of Everbody's talking about Jamie at the Deli Theatre get ready for their first performance of the school friendly version of the hit stage show

He said the themes and ideas were the same. A couple of tweaks had made it more family friendly, but it was essentially the same as the West End show.

The West End hit show Everybody’s Talking About Jamie is based on the real-life story of Jamie Campbell, who was told he couldn’t wear a dress to his Year 11 prom. Director Jonathan Butterell, writer Tom MacRae and songwriter Dan Gillespie Sells (lead singer of The Feeling) created the original stage musical, which opened at Sheffield Theatres in 2017, transferred to London’s West End the same year, and is currently touring the UK.

The 2021 film adaptation, which features Sarah Lancashire, Sharon Horgan and Richard E. Grant alongside newcomer Max Harwood, is now available to watch on Amazon Prime.

Steven Greenhalgh, vice president, acquisitions and artistic development at Concord Theatricals, said the writers of the show had made it clear they wanted a version to be performed in schools, and that they had a firm affiliation for Sheffield, where the show began.

The cast of Everbody's talking about Jamie at the Deli Theatre get ready for their first performance of the school friendly version of the hit stage show

He said: “We know that this musical is very important to the people of Sheffield, too."

He said Notre Dame had been the first to contact them about the show, a long time ago.

He said: “They have done an extraordinary job! The kids have thrown themselves into it wholeheartedly, and the staff have been amazing.

"This show poses challenges perhaps to certain schools, but actually these guys have come running at it and proved everyone can do it.

"It’s a wonderful, positive, fun show that tackles many issues that schools should be talking about up and down the country.”

Pupil Chancelina Mpova, who plays Pritti, Jamie’s best friend, said performing in the show had been a fantastic experience. Of being the first to play her part she said: “”I’m very excited, but I’m nervous as well because I want to do it justice.”

Notre Dame High School's Everybody's Talking About Jamie director and English teacher Paul O'Farrell

Stephen Davies, Headteacher at Notre Dame School, said: “We are so excited to be involved with this project at Notre Dame. Our student cast and crew have been working hard, supported by our dedicated staff. It is really wonderful to see performing arts coming alive again in school after the restrictions of the past two years. This production is once again giving students a chance to share their talent, while helping young people to engage with themes that affect their lives in a creative and inspiring way.”

Jonathan Butterell, director of the original stage production and film, said: “It is so wonderful that Everybody’s Talking About Jamie is returning to Sheffield and being performed by Notre Dame.

"This is a story about a young person taking their place in the world and doing that with courage and despite fear. It’s a story of community, friendship and of course the love of a mother; something I imagine that is at the heart of Notre Dame. It’s a celebration of each and everyone’s uniqueness in all its messiness and fabulousness, and in that is an acknowledgement of our common humanity.

"I can’t think of a better place to explore this story than in a school setting and I am so excited that Notre Dame is the first school to do this. I am grateful to the students and staff for all their talents and effort, and I am so looking forward to seeing their ‘Jamie' come to life.”