With Beautiful The Carole King Musical, another jukebox musical has landed in the West End after its great triumph on Broadway and what a landing it seems to have had. Judging by audience reactions it’s destined for a long stay here as well and deservedly so. The people sitting either side of me were generations apart and yet both were effusively clapping throughout and leapt to their feet for a standing ovation along with hundreds of others at the end. What a fabulous ‘feel-good’ show BEAUTIFUL is. Yes it’s a ‘Juke-Box’ Musical so we can sit back and be fulsomely entertained by wonderful songs, but it’s also a fascinating story of the lives behind the music and some of that story is unexpectedly painful. Goffin (Alan Morrissey) was a difficult man to live with and it certainly adds more understanding to the songs on King’s 1971 ‘Tapestry’ album, although the strength of the writing team of King and Goffin is that their songs stand-alone whatever.
What an extraordinary real life story there is to tell. Rising star Katie Brayden plays Carole King with passion and vitality, especially mesmerising when singing King’s songs. Beautiful charts the early part of King’s career from meeting Goffin at college, who swaps thoughts of writing novels to writing lyrics with Carole, marrying very young and having two daughters along the way, to her reluctant but confident emergence as a solo artist playing at Carnegie Hall in 1971. Like most people, I know and love every song on ‘Tapestry’ but what I hadn’t appreciated was that King was only 16 when she got her first commission to write songs and she and Goffin had their first major hit with The Shirelles singing ‘Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow’ aged only 17 ~ Extraordinary indeed! Even more remarkable is the fact this song is still played on radio stations around the word and newly discovered every day.
In the 1960s artists and groups needed new songs and songwriters, and managers such as Donnie Kirshner, played with wry wit by Gary Trainor, were masters at the art of fitting songs to artists, generating iconic hits that still resonate decades later. If nothing else, you can sit back and enjoy the fantastic feast of music sung and performed to perfection including Oh Carol (Neil Sedaka), The Locomotion (Little Eva), Pleasant Valley Sunday (The Monkees) Take Good Care Of My Baby (Bobby Vee) and other hits including So Far Away, One Fine Day, It’s Too Late, You Got A Friend, You Make Me Feel Like A Natural Woman, and of course the title song Beautiful. I also loved Oliver Lidert, Fela Lufadeju, Terel Nugent, & Jay Perry as The Drifters, with deft moves, twinkling eyes and fab vocals singing On Broadway, Some Kind Of Wonderful, Up On The Roof.
Intertwined with the King/Goffin story is the equally impressive song writing husband & wife team Cynthia Weil (exuberantly played by Lorna Want) and Barry Mann (enjoyably hypochondriacal) Ian McIntosh. They also wrong numerous songs and for new & established artists from pop hits such as Who Put The Bomp, ballads such as You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’ (The Righteous Brothers, wonderfully sung by Ed Currie & Dylan Turner) Walking In The Rain (The Ronettes) to more serious issues with Chains and Uptown.
The music is tremendous and played magnificently by an orchestra of 12 under the musical supervision of Jason Howland and musical director Matt Smith. Add a topnotch cast of 26 directed by Marc Bruni and stylish choreography from Josh Prince, and you have musical Gold ~ A genuinely enjoyable trip down memory lane, also learning new things along the way enchanting for baby boomers and younger generations alike, nostalgic for the simpler and more innocent days and sounds of the Sixties.
Review by Catherine Françoise
Beautiful The Carole King Musical, is based on the early life and career of legendary singer/ songwriter Carole King. Beautiful has book by Douglas McGrath with words and music by Gerry Goffin, Carole King, Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil and is directed by Marc Bruni. Choreography is by Josh Prince with set designs by Derek McLane, costume designs by Alejo Viettii, lighting by Peter Kaczorowski and sound by Brian Ronan. Orchestrations and Music Arrangements are by Steve Sidwell.
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.
Evenings: Monday – Saturday 7.30pm
Matinees: Thursday and Saturday matinees 2.30pm
Sunday 1st March 2015