THERE is no disguising the passion in John Partridge’s voice as he discusses his latest role - playing the characters of Hugo and drag queen Loco Chanelle in a new production of the hit West End musical Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, which opens at The Lowry, Salford Quays, tomorrow night.

“This is a story which is not that unique,” he said. “When all is said and done we all want to feel like we know who we are and know where we are going. Yes, this is a story about a young person who is beginning a journey of self-discovery. But it is not just story about Jamie and his place in world, it is also a story about all the other characters around him.”

Everybody’s Talking About Jamie is one of the most successful modern musicals following the story of 16-year-old Jamie New, who lives on a Sheffield council estate who realises he doesn’t quite fit in. Jamie dreams of going to his school prom in a dress and supported by his brilliant loving mum and surrounded by his friends, Jamie overcomes prejudice, beats the bullies and steps out of the darkness, into the spotlight.

“This is a show which just covers every angle,” said John, a veteran of West End hits ranging from Cats to Chicago and A Chorus Line to La Cage Aux Folles. “It touches on everyday issues and includes everybody. I think that’s why these stories resonate so much with a much wider audience.

“There’s the fear a mother has for her son, a father trying to understand why his son feels as he does. Then there’s also the story of Jamie’s classmates and how they deal with things.”

Read also: Hayley Tammadon on 'coming home' to star in Everybody's Talking About Jamie

One thing John is definite about it that the show is all too relevant today.

“At its heart there is a story of inclusion and diversity,” he said. “It is a story of personal self-discovery and we can all, regardless of sexuality, gender or religion, relate to that.

“What we want is for the audience when they leave the theatre to feel seen and heard. Visibility is everything in today’s society.

Lancashire Telegraph: Ivano Turco and John Partridge in rehearsal 
                                                             PICTURE: Matt Crockett

“We need that representation on stage, on screen, in literature on billboards. Right now we see hard-won queer freedoms being pushed back. There is a push back against that type of inclusion or lifestyle.

“Also what’s really important is that this is a smash, sell out show. This show sells itself because of story and subject matter. It is so important to keep that conversation going.”

John, who TV viewers will know through his role as Christian Clarke on EastEnders for four years or for winning Celebrity MasterChef in 2018, has been a vocal advocate for LGBTQ+ rights for many years.

“I’m 52 and as a young gay person I never batted eyelid about it,” he said. “Being gay is very low down on my list I’m a husband, a son, a brother, a friend, an actor all these other things.

“But now just on the fringes I feel it. It’s a strange thing.

“We seem to be battening down hatches of our own particular groups. It sounds so cliched to talk about being tolerant and respecting our differences. It’s such a basic thing and yet especially now we seem to be in a society which thrives on division.

“That’s why a show like Jamie feels vital. It is a show for today but not a story from today. It is a story that’s very old. The fact it is still so relevant to today tells you all you need to know.”

For all the many shows he has been in this will be the first time John has appeared in Everybody’s Talking About Jamie. His co-stars include Hayley Tammadon and Shobna Gulati, who have both previously appeared in the show in the West End.

“I think this will be the 25th West End musical I’ll have been in,” said Radcliffe-born John. “I probably shouldn’t say this but in a musical, the book is some times not that great, that’s why you burst into song.When the dialogue can’t get you there, the songs are going to do that for you.

“But with this show, the book is so strong; the writing is so strong. I have a bit when I talk to Jamie at end of show and it’s so simply and yet so powerfully written, it’s a joy.”

John admits that playing a dual role is perfect for him.

“Hugo is an older gay man wondering what his place is in today’s society and then there’s Loca, his alter ego,” he said. “I’m known for chewing up the scenery occasionally and with Loca I can do that.

“Then the writing for Hugo is so good that even I’d be pushed to mess it up - that’s the gift we have been given with this show.

“I understand what it’s like to be like Jamie. I have a lived experience of that and I also understand what like to be Hugo, a gay man on the back side of gay life, wondering where on earth he fits in in modern gay culture. This musical is like some weird biographical context for me.

Lancashire Telegraph: John Partridge in rehearsal for Everyone’s Talking About Jamie    PICTURE: Matt Crockett

“I hope that young people coming to show now feel seen and feel included and hopefully the parents of that young person see how the mother or father reacts and find some sort of parity in that. As actors we wear other people’s clothes and we try to show what it’s like to live somebody else’s life.

“I really hope that’s what people take away.

“Also it just a bloody great night out. Story aside, whatever life view is, you are going to enjoy it. That’s how well crafted it is.

“If you’re not on your feet at the end I haven’t done my job. I might be flat on my back lying in a darkened room but you can bet the audience will be out of their seats.”

Everybody’s Talking About Jamie is at The Lowry, Salford Quays from Thursday, September 7 to Sunday, September 17. Details from