WORTH A LOOK?: *****
WHERE: Apollo Theatre
WHEN: 6/11, press night 22/11, booking to 21/4/18
It must have been tempting for the creative team behind this musical about a teenage drag queen-wannabe desperate to wear a dress to his prom to rest on its laurels.
- Read on for reasons including why this is the best new musical of 2017
After all, it gathered so much acclaim on its debut in Sheffield in February that June’s news that it was transferring to the West End this month was not wholly unexpected.
However, we were at this week’s first preview and can report that there are three new songs and some minor cast tweaks which enhance this feelgood gem of a show – even more.
Best of the new songs is closing number Out Of the Darkness (A Place Where We Belong) which gives the show a real sense of destination. It matches the location that it does well to establish in its first act although the places couldn’t be more different.
For Jamie is set in working class Sheffield where our hero grows up with a mum (Josie Walker, in terrific voice), willing to sacrifice her own happiness for her son’s, and her best friend (Mina Anwar, devastatingly funny). Their earthy banter is matched only by the size of their hearts.
New member of the cast (Phil Nichol) has perhaps the show’s best setpiece, musical-within-a-musical The Legend Of Loco Chanel, which provides his drag queen’s alter ego her backstory.
He’s a more convincing singer than the cast member he replaces and the additions to the comic cast of drag queens he leads at club Legs 11 help to improve the ensemble.
What’s different about Jamie is that becoming a drag queen (Mimi Me, no less) is not the end of this story and new number Limited Edition Prom Night Special helps to ramp up the selfishness the teenage wannabe is displaying.
It’s the closing number (referenced above) and final Jamie pose, very Rocky Horror Show, which locates the story to a finishing point where Jamie has joined a new community that is both fully embracing and supporting him.
John McCrea as our titular hero is definitely a name to look out for in the future, as happy spinning in killer heels as he is singing and dancing up a storm in the classroom number so reminiscent of big recent musical hit Matilda.
There is fine support from a talented ensemble including Lucie Shorthouse as Pritti Pasha, Jamie’s best friend, especially endearing, and Luke Baker as his bullying nemesis is particularly loathesome.
Dan Gillespie-Sells, lead singer of band The Feeling, joined us in the audience at the first preview show and he should expect the awards it’s already won to be added to as this production explodes into the West End.
We gave Jamie 5* on its debut bow in Sheffield in February. It’s taken the brave step of reinventing itself for the West End, and it more than pays off, for it’s lost none of the heart which contributed to its success. Best new musical of 2017 without doubt.