When I was at University in the late seventies Carole King’s voice could always be heard floating along the corridors of our student accommodation. “I Feel the Earth Move, You’ve Got a Friend, (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman, Take Good Care Of My Baby, So Far Away, It Might As Well Rain Until September, Up On The Roof are songs which became the soundtrack of my life, for those few years.
Long before she became the chart-topping music legend, this Jukebox musical records the rise of Carole King from New York secretary to one of the twentieth century’s most prolific singer-songwriters. Even if you don’t know her by name, you would recognise many of her songs instantly.
Beautiful, tells the inspirational true story of her remarkable rise to stardom, including her role in the incredibly successful song-writing team of Goffin & King with her first husband, Gerry Goffin, superbly portrayed by Adam Gillian. After writing The Shirelles smash hit, “Will You still Love Me Tomorrow” and “The Loco-Motion” for their babysitter Little Eva, the married couple gave up their daytime jobs and became full time song writers.
Although her rise to stardom is a captivating story, Beautiful is as much about the people she chose to surround herself with as much as it is about the woman herself and her song writing. Her relationship with best friends and song writing duo Cynthia Weil (Laura Baldwin) and Barry Mann (Cameron Sharp) played a significant part in her life and were a very important part of this musical.
Carole King was married and had a child inside her teens and was happy to raise a family in the suburbs of Brooklyn until the marriage broke up and she and her family moved to Los Angeles to start a new life. This important part of her life story was superbly described by the excellent cast.
Weil and Mann, shared in Kings commercial success, having written several popular hits themselves, `You’ve lost that loving feeling` by The Righteous Brothers and `On Broadway` two of many of their songs highlighted during the performance. Some of the more moving and emotional scenes were when they had to watch and were part of the gradual deterioration of their friend’s marriage.
I was half expecting to hear her hugely successful album Tapestry in its entirety, but this two – hour long show is mainly about her life in the twelve years before the recording of that album, when she was known as a singer but flourished principally as a song writer. The sudden appearance of on `Neil Sedaka` singing `Oh Carol` at the side of the stage added much appreciated humour to the story. Apparently, King had known Sedaka during High School and had written the song about her!
The personal story of Carole and Gerry’s rocky marriage proved much more interesting to me than her song writing days and is the focus of the concluding half of this show.
Beautiful ran on Broadway for over six years with over two and half thousand performances before transferring to the London West End and has won many Theatre awards including the Laurence Olivier Award, Grammy and Tony Awards.
Daisy Wood-Davis, probably best known as Kim Butterfield in Channel 4’s Hollyoaks, was simply brilliant in the lead role. She has a stunning voice which does justice to the legend which she was portraying. When she sang ` (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman` I could have believed it was Carole King up there on stage such was the passion and honesty in which she sang. When Daisy sat at the piano and sang King`s greatest hits was the highlight of the show for me. Brilliant!
The stage design was effective, made up of sliding screens and light – studded scaffolding. Pianos swept on and off stage with ease as you would expect with a musical about the life of Carole King. There was an easy flow of stage set movements between the various scenes whether in Donnie Kirshner’s office, inside a theatre or street scene. I hardly noticed the set change, which is a credit to the set designers.
Beautiful is a timeless story of freedom, determination and one woman’s talent, whose songs will most likely outlive us all. The classic songs need no introduction, I found myself tapping my feet and mouthing the words as the familiar tunes began, I recognised them all. Beautiful is an uplifting musical which deserves the critical and popular applause and appreciation it has received worldwide from both critics and theatre goers.
Catch it while you can, you will have a fantastic evening full of wonderful songs, drama and entertainment. I loved it!
Beautiful -The Carole King Musical continues at the Royal & Derngate all this week until Saturday 8th February.
2hours 15mins includes interval