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Review Round-up: SuBo is celebrated in bio-musical

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I Dreamed a Dream, the hotly-anticipated musical charting the life of reality TV star Susan Boyle, opened last night (27 March, previews from 23 March 2012) at Newcastle's Theatre Royal to a bevy of strong reviews.

Boyle, who rose to fame as a contestant on Britain's Got Talent, is played by Scottish actress Elaine C Smith alongside a cast which also includes James Paterson, Karen Mann, Ashleigh Gray, Jeffrey Harmer and Liz Ewing.

I Dreamed a Dream, which takes its title from the Les Miserables standard that shot Boyle to fame on the 2009 UK television competition, continues in Newcastle until 31 March 2012.

The production, which was written by Smith and Alan McHugh, is directed by Ed Curtis and following its Newcastle run will tour to Aberdeen, Bradford, Liverpool, Dublin, Bristol, Southend, Cardiff, Birmingham, Inverness and Manchester.

John Dixon

"I Dreamed A Dream is yet another twist in the real life fairy story of Susan Boyle … Elaine C Smith not only makes the role of Susan Boyle her own but is also a co-author of the show … In excess of 30 musical numbers litter the score … Although many are not immediately associated with Susan Boyle, they are woven seamlessly into the storyline … When the curtain fell at the finale, the anticipation built, and sure enough when it rose again Boyle herself was standing there … But this is a show that easily stands on its own two feet … The scene where Susan's father (played by James Patterson) dies is one of the most emotional I have seen on stage … It deserves to become recognised as the Scottish equivalent to Blood Brothers, so strong are the production values. There is no doubting I Dreamed A Dream is one of the musical events of the year."

Dominic Cavendish
Daily Telegraph

"Do you remember the moment Susan Boyle went from being a nobody to an absolute sensation? … Well that moment is re-enacted in this fantastically assured bio-musical … It happens once — with Elaine C Smith stepping into the shoes of the unemployed 'spinster' from the council house in Blackburn … Then it happens again, even more magnificently, when Boyle herself takes to the stage after the curtain call … She brings the house to its feet and SuBo-mania takes hold. If the evening — co-scripted by Smith and Alan McHugh — only gave us the chance to relive this defining episode of prejudiced expectations defeated and life-long dreams fulfilled it would still be worth the price of admission … The jukebox style tracking through Boyle’s loving but difficult start in life… is also deceptively straightforward … The overall shape of the show is hard to fault, and in matching the gutsy good humour of its heroine without stooping to hagiography, this is a delight that deserves to go far, and fast, as she has done."

Libby Purves
The Times

"It is a fairytale of the online age: the diffident, depressed, dowdy Boyle became our Frog Princess. When Elaine C Smith heard the buzz about her fellow Scot, she joked that she wouldn’t watch it or 'I’ll end up playing her for the rest of my life'. She might. Kennedy Aitchinson’s cunning arrangements and Ed Curtis’ deft direction use juke-boxery better than I have ever seen. Smith catches, uncannily, the jokey wiggle, the simple-hearted physical solidity, frissons of fear and temper … Only James Paterson as her father gives an operatic thrill — until the moment after the curtain call when the real Susan Boyle comes on and sings … She promises to do it most nights. Maybe … I had hoped it wouldn’t all be awful, for Boyle’s sake, but it does more: celebrating the courage it takes to seize your luck when the dream goes nightmarish."

Patrick Marmion
Daily Mail

"Boyle always struck me as a simple woman caught up in a tawdry media frenzy … Thank God, then, that this is an affectionate look at her life … This account of her life is in many ways a cocktail of schmaltz and hyperbole … Elaine C Smith… brings a thick Glaswegian edge to proceedings – and hearty gags to match. Smith does a fair bit of singing, too … Then comes the bonus ball, and raison d’etre of the evening: a personal appearance by Boyle herself … That is when you remember that she really does have something special … Ed Curtis' production, performed before a bank of TV screens, is more than just a get-rich-quick scheme or a piece of craven hagiography. It’s also a jolly good knees-up. Between moments of throat-clearing reverentiality and tear-stained crooning, there is much fun to be had."

Gordon Barr
Newcastle Chronicle

"There is no-one out there with a story to tell quite like Susan Boyle - and I Dreamed A Dream is a fitting testament to that fact. It’s as gritty and as moving as Blood Brothers, with the added bonus it all really happened. Elaine C Smith… gives a powerhouse performance … A terrific script merges humour with sadness in a split second … With a click of a finger we are transported back to significant moments in Susan’s life … Act Two brings us to the Britain’s Got Talent and before all the mayhem and imploding following that fateful first TV screening, we get a glimpse of the lead-up to the now infamous audition. It’s one of the musical’s many highlights … Director Ed Curtis does a grand job of pulling it all together. Wild Horses should keep no-one from seeing this musical … Boyle's renditions of 'I Dreamed A Dream' and 'Who I Was Born' to be are spine-tingling."

Joyce McMillan
The Scotsman

"Although the new Susan Boyle musical I Dreamed a Dream is not the greatest musical I’ve ever seen, it certainly has a rare intensity, and terrific theatrical energy. Co-written by Scottish panto genius Alan McHugh and Elaine C Smith… it’s a powerful image of a life shaped by the telly … There is a kind of paradox at the heart of this version of Susan Boyle’s story, in that it comes in the form of a first-person narrative … The Susan conjured up for us by Elaine C Smith, in a tremendously effective and moving star performance, almost inevitably has a confidence and presence, when not singing, that Boyle famously lacked … The show features a fine supporting cast of 11 actors, a seven-piece band, and a brilliantly-chosen playlist of popular standards … In the end it emerges as a vigorous, thoughtful and inspiring tribute."


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