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Once Again, Everybody’s Talking About Jamie!

EVERYBODY’S TALKING ABOUT JAMIE Max Harwood as Jamie New

Podcast Editor Matthew Seaman on Amazon Original’s project “Everybody’s Talking About Jamie”.

For those who frequented Roar‘s website throughout the pandemic, it would have been difficult to miss my incessant writing about “Everybody’s Talking About Jamie”. Tom MacRae, Dan Gillespie-Sells and Jonathan Butterell’s Sheffield-born musical took the West End by storm in 2017, and has continued to grow since. Just a stone-throw away from our Strand Campus, at London’s Apollo Theatre, three different faces have fronted the display on Shaftesbury Avenue since it opened. I have played a role in uniting the online fan community for the show for years now, through the ever-growing fan page, but as the production comes to a “pause” from 26th September, the movie takes centre stage.

Amazon Prime Video: Press Kit

This Amazon Original project has just landed on their streaming platform: Prime Video, and sees newcomers Max Harwood (Jamie) and Lauren Patel (Pritti) star alongside seasoned stars of film and TV: Richard E. Grant and Sarah Lancashire, as Jamie’s drag mentor and mother. Director Butterell manages to capture the essence of the stage show perfectly in his first feature film. With Gillespie-Sells and MacRae’s original score remaining mostly in-tact (minus a couple of cut songs), the atmosphere and energy of Nimax Theatres’ West End production are maintained. The intimate experience of sitting in the front row has been replaced with studio-quality vocals, but that was always to be expected with a big-budget movie-musical.

“Everybody’s Talking About Jamie” is the story of a 16 year old boy from a working-class background in Sheffield, who dreams of becoming a drag queen. With the support of his single mother (Sarah Lancashire), his best friend: Pritti (Lauren Patel), and a flamboyant Hugo/Loco Chanelle (Richard E. Grant), he decides to wear a dress to his school prom. It is an LGBTQ+ story, inspired by the true story of Jamie Campbell, but it is not about being gay, or even being a drag queen, for that matter. It is a story about truth, antagonism, and finding your feet. The glitz and glam that is paired with a raw Northern heart, makes for the perfect blend on screen. Some characters support Jamie, others don’t, but each and every one plays a role in his journey of stepping “out of the darkness” and “into the spotlight”.

A particular highlight, for me, was the new track: “This Was Me”. Written especially for the film, and replacing what was essentially a comedy number in the stage show, Gillespie-Sells and MacRae have crafted a song that clearly aims to be an anthem. Overlaying a montage of clips showing drag during the AIDS pandemic, this sequence is romantic and bittersweet.

Viewers would be forgiven for not noticing that Richard E. Grant doesn’t actually sing the vocals, and they are instead performed by “Frankie Goes To Hollywood”‘s Holly Johnson. It is a timeless track, and the use of original West End Jamie New: John McCrea, as the young and elegant Loco Chanelle, makes this even more of a critical moment in the film. Seeing the old and the new, McCrea and Harwood stood side by side, is a clever homage to the legacy of this story. The film achieves this in several ways, with the West End’s Shobna Gulati and Bianca Del Rio both featuring.

Another moving moment was Lancashire’s rendition of “He’s My Boy”, the mother’s emotional outburst. Without giving too much away, the football scene that this song accompanies, makes for a painfully thrilling watch. My highlight of the film, without a doubt.

Q&A with the writer: Luke Santilli Photography

On 2 September, I was lucky enough to host an early screening at Ham Yard Hotel. Amazon were kind enough to fund this event, with the help of The Academy PR. My friend Grace and I welcomed 190 Jamie fans to this beautiful venue, to celebrate the story and its fan community.

In the post-film Q&A with writer Tom MacRae, he told me that “all of this is because of all of you”. It is clear that the supporters are a big driving force for the project, and it’s a group I’m proud to be a part of. By the time you are reading this, we will have experienced the World Premiere at London’s Royal Festival Hall, and even interviewed some of the cast members, on behalf of the fans. The journey is far from over, but this part of it unfortunately is. Amazon have been incredible in recognising the value of those who have been there since the start, and I am excited for the world to see this polished project in all its glory.

In November 2019, I came across an edition of Roar for the first time. When browsing the culture section, I spotted an article headlined: “Everybody’s Talking About Jamie – but unfortunately, Jamie only”. The writer mentioned his concerns that the characters around Jamie were too quick to be forgiven for their homophobia, and that Jamie’s flamboyance was too stereotypical. And whilst I respect his opinion, it’s important to remember that this is theatre, it’s a story of acceptance, and it is intended to incite hope. Maybe, in the real world, Dean (the “bully”) would never reconcile with Jamie, but the fact that he does is reason for optimism. Jamie gets his happily-ever-after, and if a story can help people to feel as though that is within reach, it has my seal of approval. Not to forget, Jamie’s Dad never becomes the supportive character one may wish him to be.

This is a raw and real story, with a sprinkling of musical theatre magic. It was that article that inspired me to write for Roar, and so having my thoughts on “Jamie” in the print edition is somewhat of a full-circle moment for me. It might not be for everyone, but it certainly has impacted many.

“Everybody’s Talking About Jamie” is available to stream now on Amazon Prime Video, and hopes to return to the West End in 2022, following its UK and international tours.

Everybody’s Talking About Jamie – Amazon Prime Video

Podcast Editor and Culture Writer for Roar News.

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