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Beautiful – The Carole King Musical at Theatre Royal Brighton

This highly enjoyable, entertaining “juke-box” musical has just arrived at ATG’s Theatre Royal Brighton before continuing its pilgrimage around the UK. This is not a re-hash of the West End production but a new one using actor-musicians, almost everyone being much more than proficient on at least one instrument, the style working very well for this particular show.

(L-R) Louise Francis (Janelle), Molly-Grace Cutler (Carole King) and Tom Milner (Gerry Goffin) - Photography by Ellie Kurttz.
(L-R) Louise Francis (Janelle), Molly-Grace Cutler (Carole King) and Tom Milner (Gerry Goffin) – Photography by Ellie Kurttz.

The musical tells the story of King’s rise to fame as both songwriter and performer from the success of “It Might as well Rain until September” written in 1962 when she was twenty until the album “Tapestry” in 1971.

As well as a bountiful supply of some of King’s most well-known numbers, such as “The Locomotion” and “Up On the Roof”, written with her first husband lyricist Gerry Goffin, there are also songs by other writers, especially Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, such as “We Gotta get out of This Place”.

Everyone in the all-singing, all-dancing, all-playing, all-acting cast is superbly talented and, aided by Nikolai Foster’s imaginative direction and flowing set designs by Frankie Bradshaw, produce a very smooth, relaxing show to watch. Between them, they are asked to portray The Drifters, The Shirelles, Neil Sedaka and, hilariously, the Righteous Brothers, all totally believable.

As Carole herself, Molly-Grace Cutler is superb, not only looking and sounding exactly right, but also having that elusive quality: charisma, that makes her always watchable and believable in her few dramatic scenes. In addition, she is a superb pianist and has totally assimilated King’s style of playing. Husband Gerry, is so successful that he actually got booed by some of the older audience in the stalls at one point during Act Two!

Their best friends, also songwriters, Cynthia and Barry, are amusingly portrayed by Seren Sandham-Davies and Jos Slovick, Seren being particularly impressive as a trumpeter.

Donnie Kirshner, King’s music publisher, makes the role one of the nicest, most accommodating music publishers who ever lived – in fact the whole show oozes “niceness” and perhaps at times is a bit too sugary! The writer, Douglas McGrath, never allows it to become at all ‘dramatic’ – it is just very pleasant entertainment, and, as such, thoroughly appreciated by the audience at Brighton.

A few gremlins crept into the first night, such as a door USL that refused to shut unless it was slammed, and the sound balance (Sound Designer Tom Marshall) had a few problems, such as total dropout during dialogue, of which there was very little, to instruments overpowering singers in a few songs such as The Shirelles’ “Will You Love Me Tomorrow”, but overall this was a highly enjoyable, ‘feel good’ evening and highly recommended!

4 stars

Review by John Groves

Based on the story of Carole King’s remarkable rise from singer/songwriter to chart-topping music legend, this production of Beautiful – The Carole King Musical will take audiences back to the heart of King’s landmark 1971 album ‘Tapestry’.

The musical is directed by Curve’s Artistic Director Nikolai Foster, whose recent credits include acclaimed five-star productions of A Chorus Line, West Side Story and 2020’s streamed production of Sunset Boulevard – at Home.

Beautiful – The Carole King Musical at Theatre Royal Brighton
Selected Venues

Brighton
Theatre Royal Brighton
Until Sat 2 Apr 2022

Glasgow
King’s Theatre, Glasgow
Tue 13 Sep – Sat 17 Sep 2022

Manchester
Palace Theatre Manchester
Tue 11 Oct – Sat 15 Oct 2022

Liverpool
Liverpool Empire
Tue 15 Nov – Sat 19 Nov 2022

Oxford
New Theatre Oxford
Tue 22 Nov – Sat 26 Nov 2022

Author

  • John Groves

    John Groves studied singing with Robert Easton and conducting with Clive Timms. He was lucky enough to act in the British premiere of a Strindberg play at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe more years ago than he cares to remember, as well as singing at the Royal Opera House - once! He taught drama and music at several schools, as well as examining the practical aspects of GCSE and A level drama for many years. For twenty five years he has conducted a brass band as well as living on one of the highest points of East Sussex surrounded by woodland, deer, foxes and badgers, with kites and buzzards flying overhead.

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