YouTube Sensation Susan Boyle Hits the U.S.

YouTube Sensation Susan Boyle Hits the U.S.
Susan Boyle
Ken McKay/REX

updated 04/16/2009 at 08:00 AM EDT

originally published 04/16/2009 09:00AM

YouTube marvel Susan Boyle, the Scottish singing sensation who last weekend stunned the judges of the Britain's Got Talent TV show – including cynical Simon Cowell – has hit American shores.

In what was billed as her "first U.S. performance," Boyle responded to CBS's The Early Show hosts Maggie Rodriguez and Harry Smith's request that she sing and reprised her signature "I Dreamed a Dream" from the musical Les Miserables – and, after rendering it a cappella, not only nailed it, but won accolades from Broadway's Patti LuPone, who first introduced the song in 1985.

"Susan," said LuPone, speaking over the phone on the Early Show, "you've got pluck, girl."

Boyle, 47, said from her home in Blackburn, West Lothian, Scotland, that when she was younger people made fun of her. Now, the reaction is anything but that. "Everyone wishes me very well," she says. As for the international reaction, especially online, Boyle modestly admitted, "It hasn't maybe sunk in yet."

What turned Boyle's world around was her Britain's Got Talent appearance. After her entrance triggered snickers and patronizing comments – especially when the dowdy and slightly jumpy Boyle said she wanted to be the next Elaine Paige, a petite blonde British stage musical star – Boyle picked up the microphone and magically delivered "I Dreamed a Dream."

A Tribute to Her Mother

The result? The audience melted, then stood up and cheered, and after the judges closed their gaping mouths, Cowell termed her performance "extraordinary," while fellow judge Piers Morgan admitted she was the biggest surprise he'd ever experienced on the show.

Leaving the stage after her number, Boyle – an unemployed charity worker who lives with her cat, Pebbles, and, until recently, had cared for her ailing mother, now deceased – immediately seemed to take it all in stride, until it hit her how much she had wowed the crowd. "Breathtaking, unbelievable, awesome," Boyle now says of the reaction to her.

To summon the courage to take her act to TV, Boyle said, "You have to take yourself seriously, so what I did was concentrate on the song." She added, "I wanted to make this a tribute to my mother. I knew this was something I had to do."

And do it, she did. As of Thursday morning, her YouTube clip – one of several, actually – had generated more than 11 million views and planted Boyle firmly in the pop-culture firmament. On their Twitter sites, Ashton Kutcher posted a link to Boyle's clip, along with the comment: "This just made my night." Added his wife, Demi Moore, "You saw it made me teary!"

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