Whilst I’ve heard of Carole King I wasn’t very familiar with her career, I am however a massive fan of the 60s and was very excited to see the line-up of songs that awaited my evening as I scanned the programme waiting for the show to start – who knew many of these hits were down to this wonderful lady.
Beautiful is the aptly named story of Carole King’s probably unfamiliar (to most) rise from school girl composer to solo superstar and what a story this is.
In this performance of Beautiful, Carole King was played by understudy Leigh Lothian and she was outstanding throughout – an amazing voice, pianist and actress giving a faultless performance. I hope Leigh gets her chance to shine in a lot of performances to come during this tour.
At the tender age of 16, Carole persuades her mother Genie – played with poise by Carol Royal – to head on down to Broadway and attempt to sell one of her songs to music publisher Donnie Kirshner (Adam Howden.)
Donnie purchased the song and gave the promise of a writing room at 1650 Broadway if King could create songs that could become hits.
Soon after, Carole meets and falls in love with budding playwright Gerry Goffin and they soon discover his passion for words and her ear for music is a winning formula. As Carole announces she’s pregnant and Gerry proposes they compose themselves to deliver an emotional demo of “Some Kind of Wonderful.”
Following the birth of their first daughter Louise, King and Goffin have a string of successful hits including “Will You Love Me Tomorrow” “On Broadway” and “The Locomotion.”
The fabulously talented ensemble cast provide us with wonderfully fun musical performances as The Drifters, The Shirelles, Little Eva and the Righteous Brothers. This cast more than showed their high level of professionalism and talent when there was a sudden pause in the show during the first half as one of the key characters took ill just before her entrance.
The cast were quick to regroup as we were informed the role of Cynthia Weil would now be played by Emma Lucia. Emma had been on stage earlier in a different role and yet her entrance as Cynthia was flawless and she played the part as though she had been doing it night after night and I hope she gets to do it again.
Cynthia is another lyricist who works alongside Barry Mann (Matthew Gonsalves) and a fun and friendly competition with King and Goffin to be the next number one leads to lots of fun scenes and lasting friendships.
Kane Oliver Parry was strong in his role as Gerry Goffin depicting well his battle with mental illness that challenged his desire to be a good husband with the constant battle of wanting to breathe thus leading to many affairs and eventually the end of his marriage to Carole.
The story comes to a close as the 70s dawn and Carole moves to LA with her two daughters to write her own lyrics to her own songs and the record breaking album Tapestry is born. We are treated to hits “You’ve Got A Friend” “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” and we end the night at Carole’s solo show at Carnegie Hall with a breath-taking rendition of “Beautiful.”
Wow! You will know most if not all of these songs and may have never known they were penned by Carole King – so many of these songs have been recoded again and again reflecting on the timeless talent it was a pleasure to witness.
A must see show not just for fans of Carole King but for anyone wanting a great night of entertainment.
Catch it whilst you can: Beautiful – The Carole King Musical, Nottingham Theatre Royal until Saturday 21st October
Photos by : Birgit Ralf Brinkhoff