Bristol Hippodrome – until 7th April 2018. Reviewed by Nicky Wyatt
Beautiful – The Carole King Musical is, a feel good history music lesson, probably the best jukebox musical out there. It follows 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 sometimes rocky relationship. How they get swept along from teenagers to young married parents, juggling that home / work life balance which so many people can relate to. What I loved about this show is that there is quite a quick humour along with some great one liners. Which all lead perfectly into each musical number. Bronté Barbé is brilliant as Carole, portraying her as a teenager through to her adult life. She really grows as a performer throughout the show, from the young girly teen to her development as a woman and an artist. When she accepts her marriage has ultimately failed, you are swept up in the moment and feel as if you are experiencing it with her. Her reprise of One Fine Day was very moving – bringing a tear or too around the audience. Gerry Goffin was played by Kane Oliver Barry at the performance I saw, his portrayal of Goffin’s mental health journey is touching, you can understand why he behaved as he did, too young to cope with responsibility of a family while pursuing a dream of career, having it all and yet searching for more. Cynthia Weil is played by the fabulous Amy Ellen Richardson who alongside Matthew Gonsalves as Barry Mann are a comical pair. Gonsalves portrays Mann’s hypochondriac tendencies hysterically and lands every witty one liner perfectly.
As Beautiful is a jukebox musical, it is important to include and portray King’s music effectively, and since King’s music narrates her life, it is done in chronological order. In places this can turn into a “we need to write a song, we’ve written it, now lets perform it” stint, but that’s what tells the story so well. Every song is relevant and this show is performed with such emotion and sincerity to King’s musical legacy. Of course the music is performed not only by King, Goffin, Weil, and Mann, but also by artists that she wrote for such as The Drifters with their shiny suits and The Shirelles with their soft moves . We are treated to fantastic choreography from Suzanne Thomas which is slick and representative of the era. I absolutely loved 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, guaranteed to send you home with a smile and a spring in your step.