Writers: Elaine C Smith & Alan McHugh
Director: Ed Curtis
Reviewer: Gareth Ireland
The Public Reviews Rating:
In 2009, Susan Boyle or SuBo sang ‘I Dreamed a Dream’ on Britain’s Got Talent. She came second but has now sold 16 million albums. The Susan Boyle Musical – I Dreamed a Dream is the story of how Boyle came to be and what happened a little after. Boyle’s life, although eventful doesn’t always make the best drama, but this musical still manages to be poignant and a crowd pleaser.
The overture sets the tone – with fairy tale twinklings but also threatening noises and static. This is a fairy tale set in the world of celebrity and social media. The set, designed by Morgan Large, reflects this –the square eyes of numerous TV screens stare out at the audience, and watch as Boyle, played by Elaine C Smith is born, falls in love, is bullied at school and sings for the first time. The TV’s are effective as they create the scenery through computer graphics which draw can anything from a cheesy disco setting to a solemn church. And they are necessary as there are a lot of scenes, which although nice, don’t really push the musical along – instead they sometimes drag the story out needlessly.
However, Smith’s performance as Boyle makes up for this downfall. Her warmth, her charisma and her excellent singing bring you into the show. She nails Boyle’s physicality but never mimics her – and the result is a full bodied character. James Paterson also gives a convincing performance as Mr Boyle – giving his rendition of ‘Scarlet Ribbons’ real passion and feeling.
The piece’s direct storytelling style does jar, the audience is told what is happening or how a character felt. At times, this storytelling is in danger of becoming stand up and the songs in between cabaret. Fortunately, the musical is allowed to make a connection when it shows the tender moments in Boyle’s life – and Gordon Cooper as John, and Karen Mann as Mrs Boyle should receive the credit for bringing these sections to life. In fact, when this musical flows it really is joyful. There is a feeling of terrific fun when Smith shows Boyle’s humour, or when we see behind the scenes at Britain’s Got Talent.
The musical has a strong cast but its style of story is not always as successful as it could be. Its welcome dark moments can sometimes veer off into the surreal, and its sentimentality into mawkishness.
However, the show is warm; its seriousness poignant and even though you know what happens you’ll want to stay until the end.
Runs until 29 September
I Dreamed a Dream - Festival Theatre, Edinburgh,