Hands up, if you don’t know the name Carole King (apart from it being the title of this review)? Yep. I counted myself in that number until going to the Aldwych Theatre to see “Beautiful The Carole King Musical” when I discovered I not only knew the name, but knew and loved virtually everything this highly talented singer/songwriter had ever put together.
Based on the life of Carole King, the show opens in 1971 as Carole (Katie Brayben) takes the stage of Carnegie Hall. Halfway through her first number she stops to talk to the audience and express her astonishment at performing at such a venue. This leads to the action moving back to when a 16 year old Carole was starting out and despite the advice of her mother Genie (Glynis Barber) Carole was determined to sell her latest song to a music publisher. She goes to see ‘The Man with the Golden Ear’ Don Kirshner (Gary Trainor) who knows what the people want to hear and picks up ‘It Might as Well Rain Until September’ on the spot. Now Carole is a great composer but leaves something to be desired as a lyricist at this point until she meets Gerry Coffin (Alan Morrissey) at college – remember she is only 16 – and the two of them form a musical and personal partnership that takes off and produces results both hoped for and completely unexpected leading to the two of them getting married.
More hits follow as Carole and Gerry’s relationship deepens and they develop a friendship (and intense rivalry) with another pair of songwriters, Cynthia Weil (Lorna Want) and Barry Mann (Ian McIntosh). Between the four of them, these remarkably talented teams literally write the music for a generation. Unfortunately, Gerry becomes discontented with life and his marriage to Carole hits the rocks leading to an almost inevitable split and an opportunity for Carole to reinvent herself taking us back once more to that concert in Carnegie Hall.
Sometimes as an audience member you know very quickly when a show is going to be a hit and I had that feeling with “Beautiful – The Carole King Musical” almost as soon as Katie Brayben took the stage and started to play a magnificent grand piano. Interestingly this caused some discussion around me afterwards with half the people convinced Katie really was playing and the other half believing she wasn’t. Have to be honest and say it really doesn’t matter. She looked like she was playing and she sounded amazing. Director Marc Bruni and Scenic Designer Derek McLane have put together a wonderful show with smooth scene changes that make perfect use of the Aldwych’s deep stage – personally I think the little brown upright piano that glides effortlessly around the various scenes should have come out for the curtain calls since it was as much of a cast member as the humans interacting with it. Costume changes are not only quick, at times they almost magically seem to occur right in front of your eyes, all of which adds to the sparkle and panache of the show. The cast work so well together, the four leads seem so relaxed in each other’s company they must live together when not on stage.
The music is by definition fantastic, with much toe tapping and silent singing along going on all around me. In fact, there is nothing to fault in a show where there are guest appearances by Neil Sedaka, The Drifters, The Righteous Brothers and The Shirelles, to name but a few, and where a babysitter can read a song and become a pop sensation (Little Eva with ‘The Locomotion’ in case you were wondering).
Katie Brayben was really amazing and looked genuinely surprised when she came out to take her bow and the audience rose as one to give her a standing ovation. She shouldn’t be surprised because if ever an actress deserved to have the clapping and cheering punters on their feet, she certainly did. “Beautiful – The Carole King Musical” is another one of those shows where superlatives fail me. A truly awesome show that, and can I make a prediction? This fabulous show will go all the way.
Review by Terry Eastham
Beautiful The Carole King Musical
With a cast of 26 and an orchestra of 12, Beautiful The Carole King Musical features the Carole King classics including So Far Away, It Might As Well Rain until September, Take Good Care of my Baby, Will You Love Me Tomorrow, Up on the Roof, Locomotion, One Fine Day, You’ve Got a Friend, (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman and I Feel the Earth Move, along with hits like You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling, On Broadway and Uptown from songwriters Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil.
Katie Brayben – Carole King, Alan Morrissey – Gerry Goffin, Lorna Want – Cynthia Weil, Ian McIntosh – Barry Mann, Glynis Barber – Genie Klein, Gary Trainor – Don Kirshner, Vivien Carter – Ensemble, Ed Currie – Ensemble, Oliver Lidert – Ensemble, Fela Lufadeju – Ensemble, Tanya Nicole-Edwards – Ensemble, Terel Nugent – Ensemble, Jay Perry – Ensemble, Tanisha L Spring – Ensemble, Danielle Steers – Ensemble, Lucy St. Louise – Ensemble, Dylan Turner – Ensemble, Joanna Woodward – Ensemble, Andy Coxon – Swing, Jason Denton – Swing, Michael Anthony Duke – Swing, Joel Harper-Jackson – Swing, Rosie Heath – Swing, Aisha Jawando – Swing, Hannah Jay-Allan – Swing, Leigh Lothian – Swing
Katie Brayben plays the lead role in the West End production of Beautiful The Carole King Musical. Alan Morrissey plays King’s husband and song-writing partner Gerry Goffin, with Lorna Want as song-writer Cynthia Weil, Glynis Barber as Genie Klein, King’s mother, and Gary Trainor as music publisher and producer Don Kirshner.
Tickets currently booking to 25th June 2015
Evenings: Monday – Saturday 7.30pm
Matinees: Thursday and Saturday matinees 2.30pm