BWW Reviews: I DREAMED A DREAM, Birmingham Hippodrome, May 29 2012
I Dreamed A Dream: The Susan Boyle Musical...I've slept on it and sat for a while now trying to pick fault with this production, but it is proving impossible.
This dramatised realisation of Boyle's life is directed by Ed Curtis and very well written by Alan McHugh and Elaine C Smith, who gives a performance of a lifetime playing Susan. This biographical account, aided effectively by music, is narrated by Smith (as Boyle) throughout with swift transitions to poignant moments that have had a major impact on the person she is today.
I read in an interview a while back saying that Smith was not intending to impersonate Boyle, which to a point I see was true as their vocal tone was quite different. However, she was able
to encapsulate the awkwardness and eccentricities of Boyle's personality to a tee. Smith has a real earthy, bold vocal and shines in every aspect throughout.
The vast Birmingham Hippodrome stage had been considerably boxed in to accommodate Morgan Large's set. Somewhat abstract in its appearance, it wasn't until afterwards that I realised some of the underlying subtext of the design. It was mostly gloss black in colour - reflecting the darker times in Boyle's life - with a large number of TV screens of various shapes and designs which stretched the width and height of the back wall. It was successfully able to assist with the frame of mind that Boyle was in - an incredibly effective audience tool. The video design was quite extraordinary and Jack James deserves a real pat on the back for his large contribution to this show. As a static set, the video had locational purposes as well as a live feed capturing key moments by other influential people in Boyle's life, as performed exceptionally by supporting cast members.
There were brief interludes of surreality, particularly when the ensemble all entered with Susan masks on which afterwards revealed the faces of Simon Cowell, Amanda Holden and Piers Morgan! Although there wasnt a great deal of choreography, what we had was very slick and stylised to the credit of Nick Winston.
The music was the other star of the show, with orchestrations, direction AND supervision by Kennedy Aitchison. The arrangements of the musical numbers were fantastic and made to sound even better by Richard Brooker, the Sound Designer. Ben Cracknell also needs to be acknowledged for his epic lighting design. It had a real concert feel at times so not only was he accommodating the theatrical essence of the production, but also the live music element.
Naturally the show built to a climax when Susan Boyle herself came onstage after the curtain call to sing, which was met with a standing ovation and rapturous applause. Welcoming the response with open arms (literally!), she sang two numbers but of course started with the song she is most known for and the title number, 'I Dreamed A Dream'. A slightly croaky start let us see Susan's humorous character from the outset as she played up to the crowd, which was completely and utterly embraced by the audience - this woman could do no wrong! Once she found her feet, she delivered a brilliant performance before taking her final bow with the rest of the company.
I Dreamed A Dream is playing at the Birmingham Hippodrome until Saturday 2nd June - a must-see production!
Photo Credit: Tanna / Ikon Pictures / Rex / Rex USA.