Review: Beautiful, The Carole King Musical


The untold story here is that the string of fantastic chart hits revived in this show were created by Jews. Carole King is Jewish, her lyricist husband Gerry Goffin was Jewish, their friends and fellow songwriters Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil were Jewish and so was Don Kirshner, the music agent for whom they all churned out some of the best music ever to top a chart.

However, the told story is the music, how it was made, and how the heroine of this show, Carole King, graduated from being the melody-writing half of a husband-and-wife hit factory, producing classics such as Up on the Roof for The Drifters and The Locomotion for Little Eva, to the divorced singer songwriter responsible for the gorgeous 1971 album Tapestry.

The quality of the music was always a given. So much rests on the quality of book writer Douglas McGrath's script. And because Tapestry was an album born out of King and Goffin's unhappy separation, it would have been all too easy for McGrath to have focused on the strife of that relationship. Goffin was a serial philanderer.

But the real story here is the friendly rivalry between the King/Goffin and Mann/Weil writing duos. Their output is performed here in much the way it would have been in the 1960s. So there are lots of moments when Marc Bruni's slick production puts the writers' personal stories on hold in order to perform their professional triumphs. It is here that The Drifters will glide on to the stage and give a sumptuous rendition of Up On The Roof or On Broadway, and then up pop the power singing Righteous Brothers to deliver You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling.

It's spine-tingling stuff. But what melts the heart is King whose voice, sweet nature and even sweeter music is uncannily captured by Katie Brayben. Normally I can resist being completely won over by a jukebox show. After all, only half the amount of creativity goes into a musical whose music already exists. But resistance is futile with an album so beautiful and it would be mad to pass up the chance to hear it sung live. For me, time seems to stop for It's Too Late and A Natural Woman. For others, the songs will roll back the years all the way to one of the great pop eras of all time.

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