FANS of Susan Boyle found out on Monday that sometimes fairy tales do come true – when Susan herself appeared to sing as the encore to her life story I Dreamed A Dream.
But the happy ending for the singing sensation’s own meteoric rise to fame isn’t quite so straightforward.
And though Elaine C Smith’s performance shines the spotlight on the shyness that makes live performances an ordeal for Susan, the Britain’s Got Talent discovery’s hunger to sing was just as clear in the storyline.
We’re right at the turning point in Susan’s career almost from the off with a loud aggressive knocking at a door and a terrified Susan yelling “Leave me alone!”.
But to find out how her life reached a point where she’s under siege from the press behind her own front door, Susan (Smith) invites us back to the beginning.
High-quality performances, musicians, stage set and lighting shout quality from the start of the show. Slow spotlights rake out from the stage across the audience as if reminding us this is a story about us and our part in Susan’s story too – the good and the bad.
The backdrop is a giant wall of jumbled TV screens cleverly used to reflect what is going on in the story – sometimes showing news flashes.
We hear her parents being told of the “perinatal asphyxia” at birth which left Susan with learning difficulties.
And when Susan’s parents are being told that news by a doctor, the screens paint a huge green hospital corridor with swing doors as the doctor turns to us and says: "The parents are always advised not to expect too much.”
But there's plenty of story, from school bullying to lost first love, Susan learning she can “stop the room” with her singing just like her beloved but overprotective dad to having the courage to sing in public.
It's all played out imaginatively – sometimes just a couple of lines enough to get a point across.
Scene changes come with characters snapping their fingers as the sparkle of the fairytale magic moves the story forward.
And the Britain’s Got Talent audition scene is one of the triumphs of the production with comedy from the other hopefuls – particularly Andy Gray as bagpipe-blowing bighead Donald MacDonald decked out in tartan.
Throughout the show, songs are used to comment on what is going on in the story. Lou Reed’s Perfect Day sees Susan and her school sweetheart John whirling each other around the stage. Or when Susan tries to describe how her home village of Blackburn was in the 60s, a few banjo notes from redneck horror Deliverance make the audience snigger.
Though Elaine C Smith’s voice is smokier and jazzier, she bends it to recreate the sweetness of Susan’s. And as well as portraying the oceans of emotion we’ve learned to associate with Susan’s character, the actress has also mastered many of the mannerisms and gestures.
Susan Boyle’s story is a proper fairytale with sorrow, disappointment, twists of fate and real talent getting its chance to reach a huge audience.
But as Elaine C Smith reminds us after Susan has used her mum’s memory to force herself back out into the limelight to perform, the character says ”So far my story hasn’t got an ending”.
And there’s no attempt to make a simple happy ending out of the pain and the pleasure that singing is for the real Susan Boyle. The press intrusion and pressure from an adoring, SuBo-hungry public is forcefully symbolised by Andy Gray flipping the comedy Donald MacDonald coin to excel as sleazy, bullying journo Gavin Jackson.
Monday night’s packed theatre got to see Susan’s joy, shyness and vulnerability when she decided - and she doesn’t always - to let an audience hear for itself the talent at the heart of the fastest-selling debut album of all time.
Slightly awkward-looking but smiling and warm, Susan shared her voice with its sweet tone, strength and the kind of purity that soared into millions of home TVs and made viewers appreciate they’d witnessed something special.
That is 10 times as true when you hear for yourself the incredible voice at the heart of an amazing story – and an unmissable five star show. MC