Beautiful - The Carole King Musical
Uplifting jukebox musical opens to a richly deserved standing ovation at Coventry’s Belgrade Theatre.
‘Beautiful’ is the story of music legend Carole King. The back catalogue of this iconic singer-songwriter is extensive and in this new touring production of the award-winning West End and Broadway show, Molly-Grace Cutler embodies her beautifully in a powerhouse central performance. She leads a multi-talented cast of actor-musicians in a show which feels like a joyful party and tribute rolled into one.
King’s song list is full of so many classics that she is often credited with writing ‘the soundtrack to a generation’: (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman, Take Good Care of My Baby, You’ve Got a Friend, So Far Away, It Might as Well Rain Until September, Up on the Roof, and The Locomotion to name a few. What ‘Beautiful’ does so seamlessly in Nikolai Foster’s touring production is weave these songs into a narrative about King’s life and career which never feels expository.
The show charts King’s early musical promise (she penned her first Number 1 hit at the tender age of 17) alongside her songwriting partnership with Gerry Goffin, who became her husband after an unplanned pregnancy when she was 18. There’s just the right amount of chemistry between King and Tom Milner’s Goffin in this production: their winning musical partnership is clear but cracks in their marriage appear early. Whilst their marriage is never fully explored, certain tracks nod nicely to their respective journeys.
New York music mogul Donnie Kirshner is, on the surface, all smiles and support in Garry Robson’s performance but the cut-throat nature of the industry is evident in the rivalry between King and Goffin and their songwriting counterparts, Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann, brilliantly played by Seren Sandham-Davies and Jos Slovick. The friendly competition between the couples opens the show up to even more 60s hits (On Broadway, You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling, We Gotta Get Out of This Place) and adds some emotional depth through their completely contrasting approaches to relationships and marriage.
The set design (Frankie Bradshaw) allows for slick and fluid transitions in time and place as the piano swivels on castors around the stage. This is a show which never feels static for a moment: even in quieter sections there is a buzz in the air as cast members move around the set. It is held together beautifully by the soulful voice and acting talent of Molly-Grace Cutler’s Carole King. The insecurity and self-doubt which plagued King before she embarked on a solo career is perfectly captured in a performance combining humility, charm and warmth.
Starting and ending with King’s Carnegie Hall concert of 1971, perhaps the most powerful note struck all evening is one of female empowerment. More than 400 of Carole King’s compositions have been recorded by over 1000 artists, resulting in 100 hit singles and six Grammys. A record worth celebrating and a career brilliantly realised in this winning production. ‘Beautiful’ is the perfect antidote to the dark winter nights. Book a ticket for this jukebox musical which is sure to have you toe-tapping and singing along. A hit.
Beautiful is playing at the Belgrade Theatre in Coventry from 1st to 5th November 2022.