MusicalNorth East & YorkshireReview

Beautiful: The Carole King Musical – Alhambra Theatre, Bradford

Reviewer: Rich Jevons

Book by: Douglas McGrath

Words & Music: Gerry Goffin & Carole King, Barry Mann & Cynthia Weil

Director: Marc Bruni

Musical Director: Andrew Corcoran

Beautiful is so much more than the average jukebox musical; it has a depth and profundity that examines family, stardom, creativity and relationships. It starts with Carole King performing So Far Away at the Carnegie Hall at the peak of her career. Then we flashback to her childhood. Against her mother’s wishes she is adventuring to music industry mogul Donnie Kirshner’s office on Times Square for an audition. She belts out It Might As Well Rain Until September for him and is immediately put on the books.

We then see King meet her soulmate Gerry Goffin and thus begins a creative and romantic partnership that becomes the hit machine we know today. Their rivals (but friends in the end) are Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann and we hear the music made by both camps including covers by The Drifters and The Righteous Brothers.

Daisy Wood-Davis is simply a sensation as King while Adam Gillian puts in a complex and compulsive performance as Goffin. Laura Baldwin as Weil is so much more than eye candy with her sonorous voice; and Cameron Sharp as Mann proves to be an old school romantic. Oliver Boot is masterful if rather power-mad as Kirshner; and Susie Fenwick plays the contrary but caring role of King’s mother.

The second act sees King go solo and make her magnificent Tapestry album. As if her talents as a songwriter were not enough, we realise King was a great performer too and Wood-Davis has her act down to a tee. But King’s success was not without its trials and tribulations: in particular, her relationship with Goffin is an emotional rollercoaster.

Derek McLane’s set is both glitzy and functional; Douglas McGrath’s script is tightly written; and Josh Prince’s choreography really comes into its own with The Drifters in particular. Of course the music makes this a must-see with Andrew Corcoran fully in control of this magical musical and Marc Bruni’s direction really brings out the best from his actors who are really larger than life.

The climax comes when we are back in Carnegie Hall with King singing the anthemic (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman and Beautiful. The Alhambra audience, who had been excitable all evening, simply got to their feet, clap and sang along for a real feel-good ending. In the end we are left with not only admiration for King, but also the clear message about the cost of stardom as well as its obvious benefits.

Runs until 7th March 2020

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Truly Beautiful

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