Now for something completely different! Consider this therapy:
I am sure by now all of you have heard of the Susan Boyle phenomenon. I saw it last week on YouTube. To me what was amazing was not that a so-called “frumpy” woman was singing with a gorgeous voice. To me the amazing thing was that someone on that show was singing “I Dream A Dream” with both skill and passion – two traits the song demands. The song has heart and it demands it of the singer.
“I Dreamed A Dream” is a fantastic song and the showstopper of the musical Les Misérables. It is one of those songs that is not just heard, but experienced. And for the singer it is technically a very difficult song. But a singer could hit all the right notes and the song would still not come alive like it is meant to. Only a special singer – one with both heart and talent – can belt out the lyrics of this beautiful and moving song.
Few singers can and few singers have.
Les Misérables has played in London and on Broadway, as well as around the world, The song in the play is sung by the tragic Fantine. And the first Fantine was Patti LuPone. She was the first to sing on stage in London “I Dreamed A Dream”. It was the first, and considered by some the benchmark, but it is not my favorite.
To me, the song belongs to Ruthie Henshall. She played Fantine at the 10th anniversary concert of Les Misérables at Royal Albert Hall in London. She was also, for a time, Prince Edward’s girlfriend. Too bad the Prince couldn’t hold on to her. Here is Ruthie Henshall as Fantine at Royal Albert Hall, singing the quintessential version:
In the stage version, Henshall sings the first verse. This verse is sometimes left out in other versions. Listen for the word “shame” that ends the third verse. At that word, either the singer servives or the song wins.
Here is Ruthie Henshall in concert singing the song. This is a slightly different rendition and you can actually see what she looks like (without a fake wig):
For a different take, consider New Zealand’s National Treasure, and really the World’s Treasure, Dame Kiri Te Kanawa singing her version of the song:
Now, to see how the song sounds, when sung competently, but without heart, consider Judy Kuhn’s rendition of “I Dream A Dream” for the President and First Lady Clinton in 1988. Judy Kuhn was a cast member of the Broadway version of Les Mis but she didn’t play Fantine. And it showed:
If, by the way, you want something completely different, you can also listen to Aretha Franklin’s version at President Bill Clinton’s inauguration (the purists cringe!):
Then there is Susan Boyle’s version. It was sung with talent and heart. It was well worth a listen. Embedding of this song is disabled by YouTube. So, here is the link.