Words: Simon Button
Back in January last year I was hailing Noah Thomas - the (then) brand new Jamie New in Everybody’s Talking About Jamie - as being a thrilling young talent thoroughly deserving of all the ‘Star is Born’ praise heading his way.
But just a couple of months later, lockdown struck, and the fresh-out-of-drama-school Noah had his moment in the spotlight cruelly cut short. He was back on the Apollo Theatre's stage later in the year, only to be forced back into lockdown again - a fate that the real Jamie New, a fabulous natural-born show-off with a flair for the dramatic, would have found as distressing as a pair of ill-fitting knock-off Jimmy Choos.
Thank goodness, then, for the reopening of Jamie and Noah’s return to the juicy role of the Sheffield schoolboy who dreams of being a drag queen and attending the prom in a dress.
Noah Thomas (Jamie New) in Everybody's Talking About Jamie at the Apollo Theatre (Photography: Matt Crockett)
As I wrote last January, this bright new star is following in some very daunting footsteps: John McCrea, who first played Jamie in Sheffield and in its subsequent West End transfer, and Layton Williams, who took over the role and is taking Jamie on tour from September.
But the former BRIT School-er is more than up to the task. He has a heartwarming vulnerability and a caught-in-the-headlights youthfulness that makes him not just the most age-appropriate Jamie to date but also the most endearing one.
To repeat what I said last year (because it bears repeating) he’s also got a wonderful smile, a cracking pair of dancing feet, and a fantastic singing voice. Talk about your triple threats!
Noah Thomas (Jamie) and the Company in Everybody's Talking About Jamie at the Apollo Theatre (Photography: Matt Crockett)
Add to all this the fact that, despite one enforced hiatus after another, his energy and enthusiasm are still at full wattage and you have a revitalised show that bats away the post-lockdown blues in a magnificent blur of comedy, pathos, high heels, feather boas, and fantastic Dan Gillespie Sells songs.
There have been a few script updates to reference masks, lateral flow tests, and the like, but otherwise, it’s the same show - its ‘be your authentic self’ message to LGBTQ youth still as cheering in a socially distanced crowd as it was in a pre-pandemic packed house.
Having first played Hugo aka Loco Chanelle in 2019, Shane Richie is back and having a ball as the over-the-hill performer who mentors Jamie on his drag journey (He’ll be joining Layton Williams on the UK-wide tour.)
Shane Richie (Hugo) in the Everybody's Talking About Jamie Tour (Photography: Matt Crockett)
Melissa Jacques is terrific and heart-wrenching as Jamie’s loveable and loving mum Margaret (you’ll be sobbing into your face covering when she belts out ‘He’s My Boy’) and Hiba Elchikhe, as Jamie’s self-proclaimed fag hag Pritti Pasha, brings a tear to everyone’s eye with the ‘It Means Beautiful’ ballad.
Sejal Keshwala is hilariously fierce as Margaret’s best mate and Jamie’s surrogate protector Ray, and there’s not a weak link in the cast. To paraphrase myself again: Hats off to the Everybody’s Talking About Jamie class of 2021 for proudly keeping it just as vibrant and uplifting as this most wonderful of musicals has ever been.
Everybody’s Talking About Jamie is at the Apollo Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue. For the best deals on tickets, click here.