StageScan Pick: Everybody’s Talking About Jamie

Everybody’s Talking About Jamie received a 4.4-star average across its Sheffield and London premieres, with seven 5-star pro reviews greeting it at the Apollo Shaftesbury Avenue. As Tom Wicker (Time Out) explained, the show was “inspired by” a “documentary about a teenager who wanted to be a drag queen”. Tim Bano (The Stage) found it “bang up to date … alive … fresh” and “unapologetically, hilariously, aggressively camp … brilliant”. Daisy Bowie-Sell (What’s On Stage) declared it “exuberant, exhilarating, exciting, enchanting” and “ebullient” admiring “British grit”.  She saw Jamie’s tale “moulded into an upbeat, layered, coming-of-age story that will resonate” and found Tom MacRae’s book and lyrics “scrappy, honest, hilarious” giving “the whole thing … delightful punch”. Wicker hailed “funny” dialogue which “often lands with a sting” declaring the whole “a burst of joy … the real deal”.

Bowie-Sell felt director Jonathan Butterell’s “chief achievement is to gather together a high-energy, tight ensemble and let them rip”. She praised Kate Prince‘s “attitude-heavy movement” and Wicker found Jamie “pulse-racingly choreographed”. Bano found Anna Fleischle’s “stylish set … reinforces the idea of Jamie as a splash of lurid glitter in the greyness of life”. Wicker found the whole “a high-impact blaze of colour” which “captures the frenetic energy of being a teenager” and felt “every element … works beautifully together”.  Bowie-Sell found ”the second half … soars”.

She admired “satisfying songs” by MacRae and Dan Gillespie Sells, “more pop than musical theatre” but “when they work … a total treat”. Wicker praised “a deft mix of irresistibly catchy, pop-honed foot-tappers and truthful, heart-wrenching numbers”. Bowie-Sell highlighted a “funky earworm” title track, and the “truth and rawness” of one ballad among songs to “make you weep”.

Bano found John McRea’s Jamie “a force of nature” as he “brings charm and sass, struts and sashays, to every detail of his huge performance”. Wicker hailed “a star-making turn … charismatically sharp” which also “deftly reveals the ache of vulnerability behind his character’s catwalk strut”.

Bano found Josie Walker as Jamie’s mum “a tortured tangle of vicarious living, unconditional support and sad resignation”. Bowie-Sell thought her “magnificent” and Wicker “superb” particularly when she “pours her heart into the spine-tingling ‘If I Met Myself Again’”. He found the stories of supporting characters also “crisply told”, thought Lucie Shorthouse “funny and affecting” and said Mina Anwar “lights up the stage”. Bano praised “the brash brilliance” of drag trio Alex Anstey, James Gillan and Daniel Jacob.

He summed up a show “defined by pride, by a lack of shame, by love and fun and the defeat of bigotry… corny … sometimes trite, but it knows it and doesn’t care.” Bowie-Sell found it “dynamic, deliciously entertaining … a glorious tribute to what makes us human and a heart-warming appeal for acceptance”. Wicker saw “Sells and MacRae craft a world that bubbles with hope but doesn’t ignore its hardships” yet found the result “a joyous punch in the air” a “fabulous” genuinely “life-affirming” show which “owns the stage”.

Currently booking to 21 Apr 2018, with tickets from £23 available via StageScan. And if you’ve still to catch Kinky Boots, don’t miss our special offer prices.

StageScan Pick: Miss Julie

Miss Julie at the Jermyn Street Theatre received a 4.3-star average pro score, with two fives. Fiona Mountford (ES) thought “Strindberg’s warhorse … done with monotonous regularity” but added “never before have I seen such urgency and conviction that these few hours on a topsy-turvy Midsummer’s Eve in late 19th century Sweden really are a matter of life or death”. Libby Purves (TheatreCat) admitted to being reduced to “nervous collapse” by “this always alarming 1888 play”. She praised a “new, spare, fluent adaptation” which Mountford found “confident and earthy”.  Clare Brennan (Observer) agreed the piece “remains riveting” suggesting this production “shows why”. Michael Billington (Guardian) saw both Howard Brenton’s new version and Tom Littler’s “very classy production” heighten “Strindberg’s vision of sexual relationships as constantly poised between love and hate”.
He admired “the right note of intimate realism” and Mountford found the initial “smell of something frying on the stove” one of the “many delights” of a production Purves found “particularly and deliciously unnerving … admirably unafraid to start leisurely, almost lazy” before “the pace rises and tragic energy swells, baleful and tense”.  She found it free of “gimmicky updating” and Billington praised “Strindberg played with absolute fidelity”. Brennan suggested “The production, keeping the period setting, highlights the interplay between what is evanescent (time; place – elegantly evoked in Louie Whitemore’s design) and what endures”.
Mountford thought “All three performances superlative” with Charlotte Hamblin “a whirligig of febrile intensity as she captures Miss Julie’s spinning, frantic flirtation and capitulation”. Purves thought her “magnificent… seemingly blithe with Sloaney entitlement” and Billington noted “just the right mix of hauteur, coquettishness and frenzy”.
Mountford saw James Sheldon create “a vivid suggestion of the composed Jean’s ambition and confidence”. Billington said he “reveals both the arrogance and aspirations of the lowly valet”. Purves, describing a character with “the fastidious pomposity of an upper servant who dreads being back amid the ploughmen” saw Sheldon bring “an edge of florid, handsome coarseness, the resentful brute slyly peeping out of the smooth exterior even early on”. Billington also saw Kristin “all too often played as a domestic frump… endowed by Izabella Urbanowicz with a proper awareness of her own attractiveness”.
Brennan concluded: “Finely balanced, well-wrought, emotionally charged performances make the play as real and sensational now as ever” and Billington agreed its “power … lies in the resentful passion and ferocity displayed by Hamblin and Sheldon”. Purves felt it “like spending ninety minutes watching a clear, delicate polished piece of fine glass shiver, creak ominously, crack and finally shatter all over you” as it “holds you gripped in pity and terror, the angst of a bygone age rattling and echoing down the years with perennial truth”. Mountford declared “this razor-sharp dissection of class, money and the (im)possibility of social mobility… An unexpected treat of the highest order”.

Runs to 2 Dec 2017, with some tickets still available from Jermyn Street’s box office at time of writing.

And for another reinvigorated classic, check out our no-booking-fee prices for A Woman of No Importance, which start at £19.50.


StageScan Pick: Romantics Anonymous

Romantics Anonymous at Shakespeare’s Globe received 4-star average pro reviews. Holly Williams (What’s On Stage), describing a “big-hearted musical” adaptation of the 2010 Belgian film, admitted: “You might expect Emma Rice’s departure from the Globe to leave a bad taste in the mouth, but her final show couldn’t be sweeter”. Quentin Letts (Daily Mail) found “deliciousness” in the “most kindly way it celebrates experimentation over stale tradition”. Sam Marlowe (The Stage) agreed “there’s not a sour note” and Lyn Gardner (The Guardian) described “a multifaceted gem, chock-full of love, generosity and joy” which “fits the space like a glove”.

Williams detected a “close and communal” feel to this indoor production “staged with Rice’s customary elan” and featuring “knowing nods throughout to the absurdity of people bursting into song”. Marlowe said Lez Brotherston “wittily transforms the Playhouse into glittering Paris” and Gardner found his “exquisite… tongue-in-cheek design… neatly plays up the space’s chocolate-box aesthetic”. Marlowe also praised “blissfully twinkle-toed” choreography.
He found Rice’s book “frothy, yet piquant”, Williams observed “an irresistible romcom drive” and Gardner admired “confident… sensitive” Rice’s “witty stagecraft” and “ability to tug at the heartstrings”. She highlighted the “wry comic touch” with which she suggests “that people sometimes see chronic shyness as an affectation” and found the scenes “at the Alcoholics Anonymous-style meetings… funny and heartbreakingly sad”.

Gardner described a “musical confection – composed with charm” by Michael Kooman, which, said Marlowe, “whisks accordion waltzes into lush flavours of chanson”, and Letts enjoyed “catchy melodies”. Gardner praised Christopher Dimon’s “sometimes droll lyrics”, which Letts found “witty” and “chipper”. Marlowe agreed they “trip winningly along”. Gardner thought it “best described as a play with songs” and Letts agreed “the music is a background seltzer rather than the overwhelming medium”.

Letts saw “characters … sketched with affection and skill” and Williams found leads Carly Bawden and Dominic Marsh “utterly gorgeous”. Marlowe agreed they make “endearing misfits”. Gardner declared it “valiantly served not just by its leads but the entire top-notch, cross-dressing, shape-shifting ensemble”, highlighting “delicious” Joanna Riding and “terrific” Lauren Samuels. Amid “a gourmand’s selection of tasty cameos” Marlowe also praised Riding alongside “a formidable” Gareth Snook.

Letts found the whole “delightful” admitting: “Not for yonks have I been so charmed by a new musical.” Marlowe found it “utterly gorgeous… Souffle-light and swooningly seductive” as it “glows with… starry-eyed wonder… melts your heart and tickles your fancy”. Williams, while admitting it “risks being cloyingly twee” found “cynicism soon melts away”, as it becomes “truly delicious… memorable, bittersweet”. Gardner agreed it’s “definitely sweet-toothed” yet found it “restrained… unassuming and engaging”. She suggested that although it’s “quirky and original… nobody presents sexual desire and the transformative joy of love on stage quite as well or with such febrile intensity” as Rice, making it ultimately “irresistible”.

Runs to 06 Jan 2018, with tickets available from Shakespeare’s Globe. Or for bittersweet romance in a different style, don’t miss This Beautiful Future which ends on 25 November – tickets were still available from the Yard at time of writing.