Beautiful Is An Electrifying Tribute To Carole King
Londonist Rating: ★★★★★
Beautiful is a non-stop musical voyage that will leave you swaying in your seat to classic tunes by one of America’s most talented singer-songwriters, Carole King.
It’s a sweet tale about love and professional triumph, tracing the life story of King (Katie Brayben) from her humble Brooklyn beginnings through her progress in the music industry. Soon after selling a composition to music publisher Don Kirschner (Gary Trainor) she teams up and falls for rebel-without-a-cause lyricist Gerry Goffin played by the talented Alan Morrissey.
The main duo’s on-stage chemistry is as powerful as their songs and the plot in the first half is further enriched by the appearance of two additional musicians, the hypochondriac composer Barry Mann (Ian McIntosh) and his partner Cynthia Weil (Lorna Want), who become Carole and Gerry’s friendly competition. Mirroring each other’s talents, the two pairs overcome personal and professional setbacks together as they climb to the top of the charts. The drama reaches a peak when infidelity, mental illness and the need to overcome long held inhibitions challenge the characters.
What Beautiful lacks in the more traditional musical’s grandiose song and dance numbers, it makes up for in its powerful ensemble of voices and larger than life characters who bring realism to a story that is both touching and inspirational. Katie Brayben’s endearingly emotional performance of Carole does justice to the original’s talents and persona through the use of her trademark nasally singing voice and self-deprecation.
The set is a character in itself, dazzling in shape and colour as it morphs in tandem with the ever-changing songs. The laugh-out-loud dialogue and musical interludes by ensembles representing the Shirelles, Drifters and Righteous Brothers are also highlights.
In a nod to her Grammy Award-winning album Tapestry, the show weaves King's work and life into a single masterpiece, revealing her music’s ability to narrate her life story, with each song a chapter unto itself. Never mind the show’s abrupt ending, leaving the audience wanting more — as the curtain closed on a well-deserved standing ovation, the earth had moved from under our feet.
By Sophia Shluger
Beautiful, The Carole King Musical is playing at Aldwych Theatre until 13 June. Tickets £15-£69.50. Londonist saw this performance on a complimentary ticket.
Last Updated 26 February 2015