Myself, my sister and a friend found ourselves at the world premiere of I Dreamed A Dream, The Susan Boyle Musical, on 23 March 2012 at the Theatre Royal, Newcastle upon Tyne. It was actually Preview night, the official opening night being 27 March. It was unexpected as we didn’t realise the nationwide UK tour that follows actually started in Newcastle.
The Theatre Royal itself is a grade 1 listed building which opened in 1837. Currently celebrating it’s 175th birthday, it has recently been refurbished and looks stunning. From our vantage point ‘in the gods’, i.e. the cheap seats, we still had an excellent view of the stage.
I’m not a great fan of Britain’s Got Talent, tending to watch the last programme in the series to see who wins, so I’m not a great fan of Susan Boyle. However a neighbour of mine, Anne Smith, an actress, is in the small ensemble cast, and when I can I go to support her.
The stage show follows Susan’s life from birth until her now legendary audition for Britain’s Got Talent, and her following near nervous breakdown.
Elaine C Smith, best known for her role as Mary Doll, Rab C Nesbitt’s long suffering wife in the Scottish comedy drama, co-wrote the production and stars in the lead role. I cannot imagine anyone else taking the part of Susan, it was made for her. It also turns out that she herself has a fantastic singing voice. I had no idea.
The songs performed throughout are all well known, so the audience is soon engaged. Numbers such as Seventeen by Janis Ian, Stuck in the Middle by Stealers Wheel and Daydream Believer by the Monkees, soon get your feet tapping.
Stuck in the Middle in particular is hilarious. It is performed at the beginning of the second act by the ensemble cast, sitting in a line, in various ridiculous costumes awaiting their audition for Britain’s Got Talent.
The backdrop on the stage throughout, is a multitude of television screens, always with something going on, seemingly summing up the media frenzy that has surrounded Susan since that very first audition.
During the show, all the characters when speaking to each other, actually face the audience and talk out to the audience. This is clever, as it feels like they are talking to us, and so gives a sense of isolation and dislocation, which seems to have surrounded Susan all her life.
The culmination of the night was when Susan Boyle herself made a guest appearance, once the show had finished. She walked on stage, held out her arms and stood there. She has a huge stage presence that I cannot explain. She absolutely held that audience in the palm of her hand. They were ecstatic; they adore her, and had travelled from all over the world to be there that night. There were over 100 people from the USA alone. She performed two numbers, one of course being I Dreamed a Dream, and yes, she does have an amazing voice.
To sum up, this musical will make you laugh and cry. It covers a huge range of emotions, and is very evocative.There were many events and scenarios depicted which resonate with aspects in all our lives.
Elaine C Smith’s final line as she departs the stage, is to tell us, the audience, that usually a story has a beginning, a middle and an end, but in this case of course there is as yet no ending!
If you get the chance go and see it. It is also selling out in Dublin.
Susan Boyle sings I Dreamed A Dream at Susan Boyle musical: