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I Dreamed A Dream (Edinburgh)

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Despite not actually winning Britain's Got Talent, Susan Boyle became a global phenomenon thanks in the main to a clip of her audition posted on the internet. The 'don't judge a book by its cover' message seemed to hit a nerve, particularly in America. However, a musical about the her life seemed almost as unlikely as her success. However Alan McHugh and Elaine C. Smith have written a terrificly accomplished piece of popular theatre.

Strictly speaking it is not a musical but rather a play with music - very effectively weaving exisiting songs into the story. Central to the success of the piece is the splendid performance of Smith, who has never been better. She sings very well - not sounding like Boyle, but her performance is not an impersonation anyway so that doesn't matter.

The story told, 'with a sprinkling of fairy dust', by the inner voice in Susan's head - the one that the shy, awkward woman cannot express herself. We are aware that some elements of the story are glossed over though not ignored but it was never going to be that sort of show. It is sentimental but not overly so and just when it threatens to stray, humour cuts it off.
The ensemble is excellent, in particular James Patterson and Karen Mann as Susan's parents. Director Ed Curtis and Nick Winston's choreography inventively move the show along at a breezy pace aided by a simple but very effective set by Morgan Large, dominated by a phalanx of tv screens.

In a little bit of theatrical magic, Susan Boyle did appear after the curtain call to sing two songs and bring the large audience to its feet. She isn't able to make it on stage at every performance but there is no need to feel short changed if she doesn't.

Having sat through some pretty awful biog-shows, I entered the theatre with a degree of trepidation but left entertained and moved by an excellently performed and executed little gem of a show.


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