I have an enormous girl crush on Carole King. ‘It’s too late’ used to be my kareoke song of choice, and I’ve always found it awe inspiring that she was able to write all those sublime songs when she was still barely out of her teens. And don’t even get me started on the incredible Tapestry. Last night, the musical story of her life ‘Beautiful – The Carole King Story’ opened at the Wolverhampton Grand and it was just incredible, an extraordinary story brought to life in supreme style.
Carole King was barely 16 when she sold the song ‘It might as well rain until September’ to published Don Kirshner, and soon after met Gerry Goffin who became both her musical partner and lover, then husband. The young couple wrote a chain of hits including the iconic Shirelles ‘Will you still love me tomorrow’ and ‘Up on the roof’ for the Drifters and go on to have two daughters, but Gerry becomes unsettled and frustrated by the musical direction they are going in, and starts to dabble in drugs and have affairs. Eventually calling time on her marriage, Carole goes on to become an enormous solo star with her ultra personal album Tapestry.
The performances in Beautiful are excellent, with exemplary vocals combined with real emotions. Bronte Barbe is a standout in the lead role, playing Carole in a way that makes her both admirable and likeable. Her perfomance of Natural Woman is spine tingling with real emotion, just stunning. She was ably supported by Grant McConvey who was taking on the role of Gerry Goffin, and played it superbly, managing to convey the complexities of the man. Also adding great support and a lot of humour were Amy Ellen Richardson and Matthew Gonsalves as songwriter duo Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann, whose relationship was nicely juxtapositioned against that of Goffin and King.
Stunning performances aside, there is so much to enjoy about Beautiful. Many of the songs are sang by Goffin/King Weil/Mann as the composers, but there are also stunning recreations of performances by the likes of The Drifters, The Righteous Brothers and The Shirelles which are incredibly staged, looking and sounding a dream. And Beautiful is a story that is rich in humour and great one-liners, many of them coming from Carol Royle as Genie Klein, Carole’s mother, in another great performance.
Beautiful is a wonderful piece of musical theatre, uplifting, life affirming and chocked full with wonderful classic songs. Don’t miss it.
BEAUTIFUL – The Carole King Musical
Click here for ticket information