Beautiful - The Carol King Musical

October 13, 2017 by Michael Shelley

I know it’s a cliché but, if I took a pound for every time I heard someone say, “I didn’t know Carole King wrote all those songs”, I would have been a very rich woman last night. To be fair, I hadn’t a clue either! One thing is for sure, by the end of the show you’ll know a lot more about Carole King and her illustrious career, than you possibly did before.

Beautiful – The Carole King Musical, is the Olivier award-winning West End show which has embarked on its first ever UK Tour. Clearly a popular choice given that The Cliff’s Pavilion in Southend was bursting at the seams.

Beautiful is a jukebox musical, of sorts, but so much more. If you are a true fan of Carole King, it will be pleasure enough to hear all her biggest hits, brilliantly performed by some very talented singers. However, it’s also a nicely written biography, charting King’s remarkable rise to stardom.

The show starts at the end, with King performing her own music at Carnegie Hall concert and then tracks back to a 16-year old King, in her front room, an ordinary girl with an extraordinary talent. From here we watch her fall in love, become part of a hit songwriting team with her husband Gerry Goffin, create a lasting friendship with fellow writers, Cynthia Well and Barry Mann and become one of the most successful solo acts in popular music history.

I had no idea how many classic hits Carole King had written. The Drifters, Up On The Roof or The Loco-motion by Little Eva, and even their first hit Will You Love Me Tomorrow? for the Shirelles, were all penned by King and Goffin. As each group takes to the stage, you could almost trick yourself into believing that you watching the real thing! The stand out for me was a wonderful rendition of You’ve Lost That Lovin Feelling by The Righteous Brothers.

Bronté Barbé gave a great performance as Carole King. It’s quite an emotional journey through the highs and lows but with such a bright and mature talent leading the way, it was easy to be swept into the story. The producers could have so easily put a ‘name’ into this role, as it often the case, but thank god they didn’t. With such a fantastic voice and endearing charm, Barbé brought real integrity to the role.

Kane Oliver Parry gave Gerry Goffin the right level of restless charm, always wanting more and never quite finding happiness in what he already had. Amy Ellen Richardson and Matthew Gonsalves were both delightful as the sassy Cynthia Well and hapless Barry Mann. Richardson had one hell of a voice and sashayed around the stage in style. A lovely dynamic to the show. A strong cast all round, with each getting their turn to upstage one another with all the wonderful numbers.

We were all up on our feet at the end and a bloody good night out was had by all. A definite must see show – on until Saturday 14th October.