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I Dreamed a Dream – Cliffs Pavilion, Southend

Director: Ed Curtis

Musical Supervisor/Director/Orchestrations: Kenny Aitchinson

Choreographer: Nick Winston

Reviewer: Maureen Hylands



It’s said that the words of a song are only as good as the singer, otherwise they don’t mean as much.

From the moment the curtain rose, the air is filled with magic, a magic that happily stays with us until the final curtain call.

Elaine C Smith as the much beloved Susan Boyle is superb, Smith packs every ounce of meaning possible in her rendition of every one of her songs. Her superb voice, combined with her unbeatable acting talents and striking similarity to Susan’s looks, gives us a performance that is sheer joy. Her interpretation of Susan’s persona, the cheeky wriggle, the one-armed hand on hip pose – typical Susan quirks – contrast so poignantly with later scenes depicting heartfelt misery at being bullied in the schoolroom. Her doubts, her fears, her joy, her unforced humour and cheeky twinkle coming across with impeccable finesse. A triumph.

Jame Paterson as Mr Boyle has a remarkably rich warm voice, deep and resonant, never shown better than when he sung Scarlet Ribbons -a delight to hear.Karen Mann as Mrs Boyle is particularly moving in the family church scene, her voice clear and strong, her diction at all times perfect.

Both these artistes are a perfect combination, not only in their duets, but also their heartfelt portrayal of love and concern for their daughter.

Ben Cracknell’s mind-blowing lighting and Morgan Large’s set also impress. It will undoubtedly be a very long time before we see a combination, so imaginative, skilful and adept at moving the story along such as this.The entire backdrop consists of a mass of TV sets. You want a church? A line of light snakes up, drawing a path to church as a child would use etch-a-sketch. A house miraculously appears, it’s interior seeming to draw itself into glowing colour. An intricate interior design of church again.Britain’s Got Talent shots of judges and contestants in non-stop configuration. Everything the show needed to tell the story in lighting and vision. Very clever indeed.

Then, of course, just when you think the show is over, we get the icing on the cake. The jewel in the crown shining as never before, that unexpected fiver found in the pocket, Susan herself.

Beautiful, assured, witty and natural. Her heart-warming charm pours over the footlights to enchant.The audience goes wild, then silence as no one moves a muscle as she starts singing I Dreamed a Dream.

Susan, there is another song that fits you perfectly. It’s called, Stay as Sweet as You Are. And millions are sure that you will. A terrific show in all aspects. Go and enjoy every second!

Runs until Saturday 12th May then continues to tour

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    The magic you speak of has been felt by almost everyone lucky enough to see this musical. Even those who go to ‘take their mom or nan’ end up loving it and tweeting their surprise at how emotional and powerful it is. Thanks for a review that really captures that sense of magic.

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    Wonderful review for a wonderful show. Says everything I felt when I saw it. Imaginative and both funny and heart rending, with fine performances by the talented cast, particularly the great Elaine C. Smith. If she doesn’t win an Olivier for this, there’s no justice.

    And then Susan Boyle’s appearance at the end. The atmosphere was electric and she was AMAZING. She’s a great star and if you have a chance to see her, run, don’t walk to the box office.

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    I was fortunate enough to see the grand opening of IDAD in Newcastle. It is one of the best nights of musical theater I have seen in a very long time. Elaine C Smith, cast and crew are remarkable. This play belongs on the West End and on Broadway!! And of course, when commitments allow and Susan is singing after the finale, it is pure magic. The play shows the odds this amazing woman overcame to be where she is today. Her presence fills the theater and her voice is a voice for the ages. I would recommend anyone to see IDAD. You’ll come away inspired and warmed to your very soul.

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    Thank you so much for this review heralding all who have put this prodution together! I was among the lucky ones at the Premier, and I cannot remember another moment as “magical” as being there, experiencing the professionalism and imagination of the cast and crew! The play itself is absolutely wonderful and I am looking forward to it having a long, long run! When Susan is able to appear after the finale, it is, as you say, absolutely the “icing on the cake.”

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    IDAD Musical reviews cannot get any better than this! I have not had the pleasure of seeing it in person, but reading all the reviews, through vidios, and many photos had a pretty good Idea how wonderful it is! Elaine c Smith has had nothing but rave reviews, and if lucky Susan comes out and Sings her Two songs that snds chills through you!! I dreamed a dream, and Who I was born to be, that I had seen through Vidios. Susan Is an insperation to all of us,and She is a warm,loving, caring human being, with a voice and delivery like no other!!!!