Beautiful – The Carole King Musical is, in my opinion, the best jukebox musical out there. Following the life and career of Carole King, her husband Gerry Goffin, and friends Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann, Beautiful features music which defined the latter half of the twentieth century. Carole King started songwriting as a teenager and wrote hits with her husband such as ‘One Fine Day’, ‘Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow’, and ‘Natural Woman’. The musical also focuses on the duo’s competitive friendship with Cynthia and Barry as to who can write the next number 1.
The show starts with 16-year-old Carole getting her big break with ‘It Might as Well Rain Until September’, leading to her teaming up with Goffin, their marriage, and subsequent turbulent relationship. What is really brilliant about this show is that the dialogue and scenes are all incredibly fast-paced and sharp, which leads perfectly into each musical number. Bronté Barbé is phenomenal as Carole, portraying her as a teenager through to her adult life. She really grows as a performer throughout the show, from her girlish sensibility to her development as a woman and an artist. When her marriage ultimately fails, you experience every moment with her and her reprise of ‘One Fine Day’ was very affecting – or at least I cried a bunch. Gerry Goffin was played by Grant McConvey at the performance I saw, his portrayal of Goffin’s mental health journey is touching, I very much enjoyed his performance. Cynthia Weil is played by the brilliant Amy Ellen Richardson who alongside Matthew Gonsalves as Barry Mann are a hilarious duo. Gonsalves portrays Mann’s hypochondriac tendencies hysterically and lands every witty one liner perfectly.
As Beautiful is a jukebox musical, it is imperative to include and portray King’s music effectively, and since the plot is built around her life rather than a fictional tale, King’s music narrates her life. Unfortunately in places this can turn into a “we need to write a song, we’ve written it, now lets perform it” stint, but nevertheless this show is performed with the utmost emotion and sincerity to King’s musical legacy. The music is performed not only by King, Goffin, Weil, and Mann, but also by artists such as The Drifters and The Shirelles which are incorporated with fantastic choreography Suzanne Thomas which is slick and representative of the era. Overall I love this musical and think it is an absolute hit. It is a show where you can sit back, relax, and be entertained whilst listening to some fabulous music.
Beautiful – The Carole King Musical is now sold out at the Marlowe Theatre with possible returned tickets being the only tickets available for each performance. However the tour continues until 23rd June 2018, so catch it at a venue near you!