Thursday, April 16, 2009

Never Judge a Book by Its Cover - How Susan Boyle Made Al Chase Cry and Simon Cowell Smile

My friend, Mike Ortlieb, and I share a passionate appreciation for all things Les Miserables - the book, the musical and anything tangential to the story. So, when he e-mailed me a link to a YouTube video, I thought maybe it was a cut from a cast album or something of that nature. I was not prepared for what I just saw.

Two years ago, I wrote an article about the amazing Paul Potts and his performance on Britain's Got Talent.

Paul Potts Blog piece

A few days ago, an etiolate 47-year woman named Susan Boyle took the stage for this year's edition of Britain's Got Talent. Her physical appearance can most charitably be described as "frumpy with attitude"! Hailing from a small Scottish village near Glasgow, she was sporting a hairdo I last saw in these parts sometime in the 1950's worn by a member of the Lady's Auxiliary of First Baptist Church. Currently an unemployed charity worker, she expressed a dream to someday be a famous professional singer. Close-ups of the audience and judges showed facial expressions ranging from scorn to incredulity to amusement. They clearly could not wait to pounce on this misguided dreamer who was over-reaching in her presumptions and pipe dreams.

And then she opened her mouth to sing - appropriately enough, Fantine's haunting and gut-wrenching torch song from Les Miserables,"I Dreamed a Dream,". Within a few seconds, audience members were standing and applauding; within 10 seconds Simon Cowell had arched his eyebrows in astonishment. Within 15 seconds the other judges were clapping. Within 30 seconds, Cowell was grinning like the Cheshire Cat and I was wiping tears from my eyes. I know this song inside and out. I have heard it sung by the best of the best - from Patti LuPone to Lea Salonga to Barbra Streisand. I have never been more moved by a presentation of this anthem.

Perhaps it was the sheer cognitive dissonance of Boyle transforming herself from frump to diva in just a few measures. Perhaps it was the wonder of watching an underdog emerge against all odds as top dog. It was magical and it was wonderful.

You must take time to watch the YouTube segment:

Susan Boyle on YouTube

Your heart will sing. I guarantee it.



P.S. Here is an update I just stumbled across about her reprising her song this morning on "Good Morning America." article

1 comment:

Mark Sohmer said...

Ah hem, I believe I linked this on my Facebook page, which is kinda like telling you about it. And I too love all things Les Mis (Thanks to Al Chase, I might add.)

Okay, defensive posturing over. I had the Susan Boyle rendition of "I Dreamed a Dream" stuck in my head ALL day today. Simply amazing.

From the L.A. Times:

"It wasn't singer Susan Boyle who was ugly on 'Britain's Got Talent' so much as our reaction to her" was the title of a piece by Guardian commentator Tanya Gold...

"Why are we so shocked when 'ugly' women can do things, rather than sitting at home weeping and wishing they were somebody else? Men are allowed to be ugly and talented," wrote Gold.
Her story reminded me of when Samuel was told to find Israel's new king, and all of the sons of Jesse impressed him by their size and strength, but God refused them all. Samuel asked Jesse if he had any more children, and he said, "well, the youngest little one is out tending the sheep."

We all know how that turned out, right? Israel's best King, second only to the Messiah Himself.

"For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart" (1 Samuel 16:7).