Touring – reviewed at the New Victoria Theatre, Woking
Carole King’s extraordinary career is relived in this wonderful musical that celebrates the era of the singer/songwriter.
Those who have heard the name Carole King and not automatically realised just how many popular songs she helped to create throughout the course of her career will be surprised by just how many are actually familiar including ‘So Far Away’, ‘Will You Love Me Tomorrow’ and ‘The Locomotion’, among many.
These songs as well as many others are showcased in Marc Bruni’s lovely production, which feels like not only a celebration of Carole King and Gerry Goffin’s career, but also that of Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann – who between them all contributed a lot to the development of music from the 1960s onwards.
Beautiful: The Carole King Musical is the right balance between a jukebox musical and a biographical account of her life – wonderfully warm and sunny throughout but still with plenty of moments which are heartbreaking to watch, showing the pressures of being in a relationship with your working partner.
Through Douglas McGrath’s book, the way in which Carole King and Gerry Goffin’s careers exploded from a young age, as well as their personal relationship, is swiftly staged but done with great style thanks to Bruni’s attention to detail.
Such attention means that the way in which King and Goffin created their songs merges beautifully with ‘live’ performances of their songs by the artists which made them famous, as well as giving an insight into the way in which the music industry worked which is engaging to watch throughout.
Together, everything about Bruni’s production and McGrath’s book is authentic, with every twist and turn of King’s life being captured perfectly while providing nostalgia for the audience. But essentially it is the music that very much remains at the core of the show’s success and is treated with great respect by all of the performers.
Leading the cast as Carole King herself, Bronte Barbe is wonderful to watch – bubbling with warmth, humour and charisma throughout her performance. Vocally of course she hits the right key with all of the songs but it is her performance of ‘(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman’ that feels particularly poignant to listen to – filled with emotion and depth that seems to add new meaning to the song.
Meanwhile, Kane Oliver Parry as Gerry Goffin effectively portrays the character’s passion and desire to be successful as well as ultimately his restlessness and paranoia that he is never good enough with such feeling it is hard to condemn Gerry towards the end. There is also lovely performances from Amy Ellen Richardson as the intelligent and sharp Cynthia and Matthew Gonsalves as the slightly goofy and hypochondriac inflicted Barry Mann.
Overall, Beautiful: The Carole King Musical is a masterclass in singer/songwriting skills, showcased through wonderful music that really brightens up a cold winter’s evening.