Beautiful – The Carole King Musical tells the story of legendary singer-songwriter Carole King as she rose to fame.
I managed to let this show pass me by on the West End and on tour for a while now. But I finally managed to catch it at the Wolverhampton Grand Theatre and I was blown away. With an exquisite soulful soundtrack to the show, it’s a production with real heart as it tells the story of a dedicated and passionate woman.
One of the greatest things about the production is that it highlights all the songs you’d never know were written by Carole King. We see Carole turn up to the age of 16 selling her first song to Don Kirshner (Adam Howden) at 50s and 60s label Aldon Music. We then watch her work tirelessly to create hit after hit for musicians like The Drifters, Shirelles and The Righteous Brothers. It’s a truly phenomenal story that captures an insightful glimpse behind the scenes at the music industry back then.
Before we know it, she is pregnant and married to her lyricist Gerry Goffin. As they’re churning out the hits, we witness their relationship unravel as Gerry finds himself going off the rails. This central relationship is the narrative of the story and it is portrayed superbly with rich depth. There is no doubt Carole King’s award-winning album Tapestry was crafted with this pain, and heartbreak.
Bronte Barbe is a first-rate actor that captures the role of Carole King with so much authenticity. Completely encapsulating the role, she brings such warmth to the character as she tries to navigate her way through this tricky relationship. With music as her saviour, her moments of weakness are played out at the piano and it’s truly beautiful. Barbe’s relationship with Gerry Goffin (Grant McConvey) is strained and both Barbe and McConvey create superb tension.
The central story is broken up with glorious moments of music from the well-known singers that performed Carole and Gerry’s music. Matt Mills, Matthew Elliot-Campbell, Simeon Montague and Khalid Daley particularly shine with their charismatic charm as The Drifters. They bring immense energy, stunning vocals and slick moves to the stage.
There close friends and power couple, songwriting duo Cynthia Weil (Amy Ellen Richardson) and Barry Mann (Matthew Gonsalves) work alongside them at the label. Carole confides in Cynthia, and these heartfelt moments of friendship bring lots of light to the production. Also creating fantastic comic moments, Adam Howden as Don Kirshner guides the couples through their careers with authority but has a warm persona. Not only has he watched Carole’s career progress but he has watched her grow up, and his encouragement and belief is portrayed wonderfully.
Beautiful is a bio-jukebox musical that ticks all the boxes as it brings to life the remarkable true story of one talented woman and her piano. As she takes to the stage to finally put her own sublime vocals to her music, it’s a triumphant and moving ending.
Beautiful – The Carole King Musical is on at the Wolverhampton Grand Theatre until Saturday the 16th of June, tickets and information can be found online here.