Susan Boyle in Concert, Edinburgh Festival Theatre, Review
The final two nights of Susan Boyle’s first concert tour around Scotland ended at the Edinburgh Festival Theatre on 12th and 13th July.
A TV camera crew is outside filming members of the audience as they arrive for a forthcoming documentary on the Britain's Got Talent singer. It’s a mixed crowd, mainly women, with an age range from around 25 to 85, filling the theatre to capacity from the stalls up to the Gods.
The chatter and mounting anticipation is electric, more like teenagers waiting for One Direction. But Susan Boyle is a global superstar selling 19 million chart-topping albums and here are her devoted fans.
The seven-piece band strikes up for a polished performance by Lance Ellington, (from Strictly Come Dancing), of two smooth, melodic songs, Feeling Good, and Luck be the Lady. And then the lights dim and a shadowy figure in an evening gown appears at the back of the stage, as a group of excited women in the second row of the stalls jump to their feet.
Her entrance is neatly dramatized with a sound clip from her famous Britain’s Got Talent audition, with Simon Cowell asking Susan to which singer would she compare herself - “Elaine Paige” she replies.
In a black sequinned dress with a white, gossamer-silk shawl, Susan launches into her first number, On My Own, from Les Miserables. Amid a roar of applause, she steps forward a little tentatively, “Good Evening Edinburgh!” she shouts with a wide smile.
The concert will be a journey of memories through her favourite songs, she explains. Her rendition of Over the Rainbow with a creative shift of key and tempo is like a new song, the lyrics emphasising her personal belief in dreams and following her heart. Susan is supported in a few numbers by two backing vocalists, Annie Skates and Ashleigh Gray who joins Susan in a lovely duet, I Know Him So Well.
In between the songs, which range from a raunchy Wild Horses to “time to get jazzy” with a Billie Holliday track, “That Ole’ Devil called Love,” and Ae Fond Kiss by Robert Burns, she relates amusing anecdotes about her cat Pebbles and a love of musicals. She has a wicked, cheeky sense of humour, but you can tell she is not so confident chatting to the audience, where a glimpse of a shy, off stage persona occasionally peeks through.
A minute later, sitting on the stool beside the piano, she belts out Cry Me a River with passionate feeling, which intensifies even more in her beautiful delivery of the torch song As Long as He Needs Me, in which she punches out the high Cs which soar up to the roof of the theatre. A tingle down the spine moment for sure.
The show is well orchestrated, staged and directed, with a selection of well known ballads enriched by the backing vocalists, violins and the youthful voices of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland Choir. Lance Ellington also joins Susan for a few duets, including All I Ask of You (Phantom of the Opera) which clearly highlights her extraordinary operatic vocal range.
At the finale, I Dreamed a Dream, as you can imagine, there is a standing ovation with shrieks of delight and pleasure.
Cynics of TV reality shows may dismiss the notion that media-created pop singers have any real talent. But to witness Susan Boyle live on stage proves beyond doubt that this performance is no gimmick. Susan has a natural purity in her voice combined with genuine emotion and the effortless art of a true Diva in glamorous style.
This inaugural Scottish tour, (the perfect taster to gain experience of stage shows), has been a huge sell out success: the start perhaps of the next journey in her magical musical career, taking Susan Boyle in Concert around the world. Her international audience is waiting.