New musical based on Susan Boyle’s life

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A NEW musical about the life story of Britain’s Got Talent star Susan Boyle opens in the region this week. Katy Wheeler spoke to its lead actress Elaine C Smith about stepping into SuBo’s shoes.

SOMETIMES fairytales really do come true.

And stories don’t come much more “happily ever after” than Susan Boyle’s – the woman who walked into Britain’s Got Talent as a plain parish church choir singer and left a global superstar.

However, what happened before Britain’s biggest talent show?

It’s a question answered by I Dreamed a Dream, a new musical based on her life story which opens at Newcastle’s Theatre Royal tomorrow.

Leading the cast as Susan is Elaine C Smith, star of the hit West End stage play Calendar Girls, who is best known for her portrayal of Mary Doll in BBC show Rab C Nesbitt.

She’s keen to make sure the show is a fitting tribute to her fellow Scotswoman.

“I think the world is interested in her story. It’s a real fairytale,” she explained.

“I had never met Susan before the musical, but I’ve since discovered that she had been to see me in panto and had watched me in Rab C Nesbitt. It was actually her who had put my name into the hat.

“She said she would be honoured if I would play her which is a lovely thing to say. I have something very precious on my hands.”

The musical tells the story of Susan’s life, from her birth up to the present day. It depicts her humble beginnings of being born into a large working-class family in central Scotland, and sharing a three-bedroomed council house with a family of 10 to where she is today – a woman who beat the odds to become a global star.

Susan herself will join the cast for the finale which will be the first opportunity for people to watch her perform in the UK on stage since the Britain’s Got Talent tour in 2009.

Susan said: “I am thrilled to be a part of the musical about my life story and very much looking forward to stepping on stage and performing with the cast.

“It is an honest portrayal of my life and has been a cathartic process to be involved in.”

It’s proved an emotional journey for actress Elaine too, who feels a real connection with Susan.

She said: “We grew up about 20 miles from each other. It was very easy when we met, she has such a great sense of humour.

“She said she was nervous about meeting me though, which I found funny.

“I lost my own father a few weeks ago so those scenes where Susan loses her father are emotional for me.”

She added: “We want to make sure we get the show right and to give her a voice.

“She herself has spoken openly about being bullied and having a lack of air when she was born, so we can use those elements to tell her story.

“We didn’t want it to be sugary because her life wasn’t like that. We wanted the songs to come out of the drama so we looked at the moments where the songs she has recorded would fit.

“We don’t hit Britain’s Got Talent until the second half. What’s interesting is the woman who turned up there and why. We all know the story after that, but not before.”

Within nine days of her Britain’s Got Talent audition, videos of Boyle – from the show, various interviews and her 1999 rendition of Cry Me a River – had been watched more than 100million times.

Despite finishing second in the show’s final behind dance troupe Diversity, Susan’s debut album, I Dreamed a Dream, was the best-selling album of 2009.

Elaine explains her phenomenal rise to stardom: “Susan connects and makes us wake up and realise that talent matters.

“We’ve had 20 years of celebrity-driven manufactured images of what women should be, we’re all judged by our cover.

“But Susan was a contradiction. She had this beautiful voice, but she didn’t look how we thought she’d be. Susan’s story can connect. It’s everybody’s dream.

“When I did Calendar Girls I felt that connection too: that story of ordinary women doing extraordinary things.”

The show’s producer, Michael Harrison, said: “Having Susan join the cast to perform the finale of her musical is amazing for both ourselves and audiences across the UK and Ireland.

“Susan continues to defy the odds and surprise the world with her record-breaking albums. Now she can add a musical to her list of achievements and I can’t wait to see the audience reaction when she walks on stage.”

l I Dreamed a Dream appears at Newcastle Theatre Royal from March 23-31. Tickets are £14.50-£40 and can be purchased from the Theatre Royal Box Office on 08448 11 21 21 or select your own seat and book online at www.theatreroyal.co.uk