Everybody's Talking About Jamie star Ivano Turco talks realness, representation and what he brings to the role

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“I wanted to play the show for homophobic people... the importance is changing their minds. We have already got everybody else on side”

Everybody’s Talking About Jamie’s latest run has made a huge impact on audiences, and with just three nights left to go in Sheffield, The Star had a sit-down chat with star of the show, Ivano Turco.

Before Ivano took on the role of Jamie New, he made his West End debut, straight out of college, in the global opening night of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cinderella as Prince Sebastian. He later played Bob Marley in Get Up! Stand Up! And was nominated for Best Featured Artist at the Grammy Awards in 2021.

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He tells The Star about how Jamie has compared to his other roles (and whether or not it ranks as his favourite), how he has played it differently to past Jamies (who have included Layton Williams and John McCrae), what it has been like to come to the musical’s hometown, and even gives us teaser of his Sheffield accent.

Ivano Turco, starring as Jamie at The Lyceum in SheffieldIvano Turco, starring as Jamie at The Lyceum in Sheffield
Ivano Turco, starring as Jamie at The Lyceum in Sheffield | Dean Atkins

To start off - how are you doing, and how are you finding Sheffield so far?

I feel like we've been waiting for this moment on the tour for so long, and now that we're finally here in the hometown - it feels liberating. The script is so specific to Sheffield audiences, so we’ve been playing some of the jokes and they just don't quite land the same way [in other places]. There's a reference to Parson’s Cross, and every time we played that in the tour so far, it’s just been crickets. But here, everyone has been like “that’s so funny!”

For anyone who hasn’t seen it yet, what Everybody’s Talking About Jamie about?

It’s a coming-of-age story, about a 16-year-old boy on the precipice of the next chapter of his life. We follow Jamie as he's trying to navigate his wants to be a drag queen, and the putdowns [he deals with] from his peers. We see his relationships with the other principal characters in the show and how they feed into that - I think of it like the Wizard of Oz, they all teach him how to have the courage, the brains and the heart to be able to follow his dream. 

Ivano Turco, starring as Jamie at The Lyceum in SheffieldIvano Turco, starring as Jamie at The Lyceum in Sheffield
Ivano Turco, starring as Jamie at The Lyceum in Sheffield | Dean Atkins

In terms of your journey then, how did you get to this point? What's the timeline of you becoming Jamie New?

It started when I was doing Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cinderella. That was my first job outside of college, and  towards the end of the run I just met the producers and creators of this show. They were like, “we’ve had our eye on you for a very long time, to be our next Jamie!”

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They came to me with this offer a year in advance before we were ever gonna hit the road, so it was quite a long time coming for me. We started rehearsing in August and then we hit the road in September, and then we've just been playing [since]. I think we have nearly played 200 shows now, so we're on the last leg of the tour. 

Sheffield has come at a good point, it’s given us that extra boost to finish strong - and it gave us time to practice our Sheffield accents! The accent is so specific - a lot of people think it's like a ‘general northern’ or Yorkshire accent, but they were very on it about policing us, [saying] ‘we need to represent accordingly’, which is only fair.

How has playing Jamie compared to your previous roles?

Jamie is very different because it is the first time I've actually got to play a gay character. It feels liberating for me because it's the first time I've been able to play a queer story, and to be able to live that kind of truth on stage is priceless. I think as queer actors in the industry, there is a lot of, ‘oh, you need to look straight and be able to act straight to be able to get these jobs’. So, it's an extra skill that we learn, to pass in different types of roles. And these roles are so abundant, we're so oversaturated with straight roles. There are hardly any gay roles that aren't like, ‘woe is me’ and mainly about the struggles of being gay.

That must really be something, then, to show that queer experience in a joyful way?

Absolutely! Absolutely. Black boy joy, I love. And I love how the team has been so open - first of all, with the casting. When I first found out about the show, I was still in college. I will be frank and say, I thought it was just another role for a queer white person to be able to show up and show out on stage. So, I was a bit like, ‘well, that could be fun’, but I put it to the side. Then, when I saw how diverse the casting became, I got really excited, because now I want to come and inject what I can do, and bring my background into this, even down to the music. That has been unparalleled.

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Everybody's Talking About Jamie is being performed at The Lyceum in Sheffield until April 20 (Photo: Matt Crockett)Everybody's Talking About Jamie is being performed at The Lyceum in Sheffield until April 20 (Photo: Matt Crockett)
Everybody's Talking About Jamie is being performed at The Lyceum in Sheffield until April 20 (Photo: Matt Crockett) | Matt Crockett

What is it that you have been ‘injecting’ and bringing fresh to the role?

The good thing about it being done before by so many people, is that you see the ground that has been covered. Then I look at it and think, ‘where do I want to take this, that it hasn't been taken before?’

I didn't want Jamie to be this over-the-top, flamboyant entity of energy that was only on the stage and that lived away from the actual world. I wanted to ground him, and make it seem like he is just as normal as everybody else.

For me - and it's counterproductive I guess, at first, but I think it worked in the long run - I wanted to play the show for homophobic people. Gay people love the show, allies love the show, but we can't shy away from the fact that there's going to be people who are coming and have no idea what the show is about. I wanted to also have that audience in mind because the important thing is changing their minds and changing their hearts going forward.

Ivano Turco, starring as Jamie at The Lyceum in SheffieldIvano Turco, starring as Jamie at The Lyceum in Sheffield
Ivano Turco, starring as Jamie at The Lyceum in Sheffield | Dean Atkins

We've already got everybody else on side, so that was kind of my angle about it. Not to pander to the homophobic people, but just to let them know that we are human too, we're really down to earth too, and you can see the humanity in that.

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That's why I wanted to make him ‘laddy’ at times too, because everybody has so many layers to them. It's not just one note, and I definitely didn't want to make it one note.

How have you adapted your performance and music specifically to help show that reality?

I definitely dance it a lot more. I love to dance, I was trained as a dancer, so at some of the points where past Jamies wouldn't be as involved in the choreography and ensemble and stuff, I have definitely injected into that. I wanted to show he can keep up as well, he is a part of that, he's just as equal as all of them. I thought that was really important.

Everybody’s Talking About Jamie - pic by Matt CrockettEverybody’s Talking About Jamie - pic by Matt Crockett
Everybody’s Talking About Jamie - pic by Matt Crockett

In terms of music, my influences are very R&B and old school soul. I grew up singing in church and I'm an artist in my own right, so I was so happy that the team and Dan Gillespie Sales were so eager to see what we could do. I do love musical theatre but I do feel that sometimes, the vocal can get a little bit mundane, and I wanted the score to feel like you were listening to a chart album. I wanted it to feel bumpy and current and with the times.

And on that point of musical influence that you have brought to Jamie, I have heard on the grapevine there may be music coming in the future from you?

Yes, and that's something that I'm really excited for! You have to put so much time into those ventures and I am excited to walk into that next chapter. The kitchen is hot, there are some things that are brewing. I think a lot of people are going to be excited for this new phase of music. Stay tuned, that's all I'll say - 2025 is looking very good.

Find tickets for Everybody’s Talking about Jamie on the show’s website.

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