I Dreamed A Dream

The Alhambra

I admit that when I heard there was a Susan Boyle musical, I feared the worst.

It could have been unbearably naff, in a mid-afternoon TV movie kind of way.

When last night’s performance opened with a dream-like sequence drenched in dry ice, I made the kind of assumptions I once made about Susan Boyle when she walked on stage for that now world-famous Britain’s Got Talent audition.

And, once again, I was wrong.

This is a surreal show, but also moving and uplifting, not least when the lady herself appears to a standing ovation.

By the time Miss Boyle gave her pitch perfect performance of I Dreamed A Dream, we’d been on quite a journey through her life.

It was an effective device to have ‘Susan’ as our narrator, looking back on the people and events that shaped her.

Her early life unfolded in touching scenes, from the moment she was starved of oxygen at birth – “the doctors said not to expect anything of me” – through a loud, loving childhood in an overcrowded council house in West Lothian, to the quiet agony of losing her parents.

A quality cast was led by the excellent Elaine C Smith, giving a cracking performance as Susan, capturing her vulnerability, her humour and her dream.

With a striking set of countless TV screens reflecting the passing years, the first act delivered an impressively authentic depiction of working-class life in the 1970s and 80s.

As Susan shuffled onto a social club dance floor, women in baggy cardigans and men with bad perms cackled while someone belted out Una Paloma Blanca.

A clever use of timeless pop songs, including At Seventeen, Daydream Believer, Mad World and a fabulous rendition of Stuck In The Middle With You by assorted BGT characters awaiting their fate lifted the action along nicely.

The second act followed Susan’s rise to fame, and its pressures, revealing more about her than any brutal tabloid headline ever did.

A sweet, honest and surprisingly soul-stirring show.

Runs at the Alhambra until Saturday.