Mayflower, Southampton – until 30 September. Reviewed by Sharon MacDonald-Armitage
Beautiful is one of those shows where you may have an idea about Carole King as a recording artist but probably little idea as to her prolific writing career or even her personal life.
Led by Bronté Barbé, an ex BBC1 Over the Rainbow contestant, this show depicts King’s journey from young, naive, Brooklyn schoolgirl with dreams of writing songs for a top recording studio through to the mature talented artist that released the iconic Tapestry album.
With writing partner and husband at the time,Gerry Goffin we see how her life is built into the fabric of her music. From marriage, motherhood and divorce we see King grow into a strong independent woman. Writing for artistes such as The Drifters and Little Eva, singing classic songs: Up on the Roof, Some Kind of Wonderful and The Locomotion it is astounding as to how hard composers had to work back it the 50’s and 60’s where hits songs were churned out with alarming regularity.
Barbé puts in a solid performance as King particularly at the start and end of the show and once in full flow singing the well known numbers: You’ve Got a Friend, (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman and the show title track Beautiful the audience enjoyment is evident.
With a supporting cast that includes Kane Oliver Parry as Gerry Goffin, Matthew Gonsalves as Barry Mann and Amy Ellen Richardson as Cynthia Weil – the latter whose performance is the stand out of the show – there is undoubtably talent in this touring production. Some of the humorous lines are delivered by Carol Royale who plays Genie Klein, King’s mother, whose only wish is for her daughter to teach music rather than compose pop songs, something she seems to have conveniently forgotten when her daughter is performing at Carnegie Hall.
This is an easy on the ears and eyes show, using a formula of great songs, simple but effective set (albeit a little clunky at times), glorious costumes, wigs and makeup (who wouldn’t want that ‘beautiful’ blue patterned dress King wears at the start and end of the show) and a hard working ensemble and orchestra. Without a doubt it will appeal to those of a certain age due to memories of Carole King, but the whole package will also appeal to a younger audience who may be hearing King’s songs for the first time.
The fact the show has a somewhat cyclical narrative starting and finishing at the same point; Carnegie Hall, gives a closure to the show and a closure to this part of King’s story.
This is a good solid evening out and worth taking a chance on if you are unsure