Show and Tell Hawai'i

The dream that rocked the world

April 23rd, 2009

Susan Boyle’s meteoric rise — from obscurity to media darling in the past two weeks —has taught us valuable lessons about her mantra and ourselves.
Like:
• Don’t judge a book by its cover.
• Don’t under-value the power of a reality show.
• Media — in this case, that formidable YouTube clip, on which Boyle sings “I Dreamed a Dream” with remarkable intensity — play a big part in getting a name, a face, a thing out there.
Boyle, the unemployed, spinster 47-year-old nobody from Blackburn, Scotland, startled the jaded judges and the cynical audience on the British reality show, “Britain’s Got Talent.” With her scruffy demeanor housed an unexpected surprise.
She sang the poignant, difficult-to-pull-off ballad from “Les Miserables,” mostly to fulfill a dream she harbored with her late mother — to get a chance to be heard ... and immediately became a media sensation.
Now, she’s a somebody, the ugly ducking who doesn’t yearn to be a swan, just hungry for a chance to be seen and heard. And boy, she succeeded — with 60-million-plus YouTube hits, tons of chatter on Twitter, unrelenting exposure on mainstream TV talk, entertainment and news shows, and, yes an obvious newbie on the Wikipedia radar.
She was the anti-star. Frumpy clothing, disheveled hairdo, a look and form not usually fodder magazine covers.
A panel of judges — king-of-insults Simon Cowell, Amanda Holden and Piers Morgan — seemed ready to dismiss her, as did an eye-rolling audience anticipating the worst.
A William Hung she was not. But Boyle was that unpolished diamond in the rough, radiating with genuine vocal fireworks. Midway through the song, she became that phenom; folks in the audience were cheering, giving her a standing ovation.
It was a moment that echoed familiar pangs for
Loretta Ables Sayre, the Filipino singer-actress now starring as Bloody Mary in Lincoln Center’s “South Pacific,” who hadn’t seen the Boyle clip, but watched after we provided a link.
Her response, via e-mail: “Boy, I can really say I know how she feels. It brought back a flood of memories for me. When they (the judges) all gave her yes’s and she did a happy dance, it was exactly the same way I felt when they gave me my job after my call back with all of the R&H org (Rodgers & Hammerstein) and families there. Chicken skin!!!”
Ables Sayre is a plus-sized Filipina with a voice to match; while no one poked fun at her (the role required her body form), she had to prove herself to bring her Island presence to the national stage.
Boyle put her quaint village on the map, too, with news and talk shows sending crews to scope out her past and her haunts.
Was it solely her talent that made folks do a quick turn-around, from snickering to cheering; was it the economic climate of a gloom and heartache that fueled and spiral her connection with everyone; was it the bright light we needed to off set the stress of our daily lives?
And win, lose or draw, should Boyle be tampered with? Like makeover, with a new ‘do, new duds, a chin and body tuck?
Singer Jimmy Borges says uh-uh. No. “If I were presenting her, I would bring her ‘out’ exactly like the world saw her on YouTube. That’s a major part of the dynamic right now. If she sustains her popularity in future appearances, then a slowly-evolving makeover should be OK. Her singing is extraordinary for a ‘villager’…and that is the appeal…the transformation of Unappealing Duckling to Swan by way of a beautiful voice. It’s a great story that everyone aspires to or understands. She fulfilled Everyman’s Dream.”
Now Oprah wants Boyle. A CD may be calling. A new breed of cynics think Boyle is a plant, a fraud. At best, she’s earned her 15 minutes of fame.

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