Despite perhaps a slightly thin plot, Beautiful is a wonderful celebration of Carole King’s ability as a singer/songwriter.
When you think of Carole King, you either imagine her sitting in front of a piano or hear songs such as ‘Will You Love Me Tomorrow?’ and ‘You’ve Got a Friend’ running through your mind. As this high quality production proves, she is a singer and songwriter whose music managed to reflect the changing times effectively.
Taking us through her story from when she was sixteen and about to embark on a successful career, along with her increasingly complicated relationship with Gerry Goffin, Beautiful is really all about the music that is effortlessly interwoven throughout Marc Bruni’s slick production.
As much as Beautiful is about Carole King, Gerry Goffin and fellow songwriting pair Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, it also provides a fascinating insight into the musical history being created time as each songwriting pair grew increasingly competitive to write songs for some of the biggest groups at that time, highlighted with true 1960’s flair through ‘Up on the Roof’ and ‘On Broadway’ for example.
Perhaps the only real issue with the musical is the fact that it doesn’t feel as though there is enough depth given to the characters themselves in Douglas McGrath’s book – despite the excellent performances from the cast. The difficult elements of Carole King’s relationship with Gerry could have been given a little more focus for example or even more emphasis on how the songs were created.
Yet despite this, there is still plenty to be enjoyed about the production in particular Alejo Vietti’s costume designs which reflect the era well and Derek McLane’s set design that brilliantly and effortlessly transforms to numerous locations well.
Performance wise, Daisy Wood-Davis has a sweet tone to her voice as Carole King that reflects the character’s depth and understanding behind the music wonderfully well as highlighted during ‘One Fine Day’ that brings the first act to a heartbreaking conclusion. She is well matched with Adam Gillian as Gerry Goffin, who captures his increasing insecurity and eventual breakdown to full effect – with their voices working in perfect harmony during ‘Some Kind of Wonderful’. There is also great support from Laura Baldwin as the strong and opinionated Cynthia and Cameron Sharp as the charismatic Barry, while the ensemble do massively well transforming from one famous group of the era to the next.
There is no denying this was a musical designed to be a crowd pleaser and is immensely enjoyable from start to finish despite perhaps a lack of depth in the book. It is a show that offers a fascinating insight into the world of the songwriting skills of Carole King and is thoroughly charming.
By Emma Clarendon