beautiful top


Birmingham Hippodrome


Carole King’s seminal 1971 Album, Tapestry, received universal approval on its release and remains an essential part of many a record collection.

After years of writing songs that were performed by other people, the songwriter finally became the singer. Sales of more than 25 million copies would suggest it was the right thing to do.

Key to King’s success was her collaboration with lyricist and first husband, Gerry Goffin. From catchy 60’s pop classics like The Locomotion to enduring standards such as Natural Woman, Pleasant Valley Sunday and Will You Love Me Tomorrow?, the couple were something of a hit factory with big name artists queuing up to perform their songs.

The musical, based on Douglas McGrath’s book, documents King’s journey from aspiring teenage songwriter to the release of Tapestry.

It  had its American premiere in 2013, with its West End debut following in 2015 to huge critical acclaim. This marks it’s first tour and an opportunity to spread the gospel even further.

To describe the show as a Jukebox Musical does it a disservice. it is far more than a constant parade of songs loosely linked by dialogue. As strong and superbly delivered as the songs are, there is also a good, strong story here.

A young girl hell bent on becoming a song writer and her dogged persistence in getting her foot in the door; the rise and ultimate fall of her relationship with Gerry Goffin; the friendly rivalry with fellow songwriters, Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann.

There is more than enough dramatic content here to ensure that it never looks like the show is being carried by its musical repertoire, as impressive as that is. Rather like Jersey Boys, another rags to riches tale peppered with fabulous tunes, there is so much more to it than an onstage playlist.

With the story ending at the release of Tapestry, there is inevitably much left untold. King’s friendship with James Taylor, for instance, was both enduring and productive. Her subsequent three marriages following the break up with Goffin suggested a soul searching for ultimate happiness. The story certainly went on beyond that album but arguably the best and most productive years are presented here.

King’s distinct singing voice and emotive delivery are captured perfectly by Bronte Barbe. There is a huge vulnerability in King’s performances, largely because she is singing and living her own songs.

Barbe not only hits the right tone but physically shows the journey from determined teenager to a woman at the very top of her game with impressive skill. Accurate and emotional in equal measure.

The ultimately doomed relationship between King and Goffin was all the more tragic as the pair clearly instinctively knew what worked for each other musically.

His lyrics were the perfect fit for her songs. As their success grew, however, he wanted to chase more of it and became caught up in the inevitable trappings and the steady foundations began to crumble. Kane Oliver Parry captures Goffin’s drift away from the relationship with measured poignancy.

Amy Ellen Richardson fizzes as fellow songwriter and close friend, Cynthia Weil whilst Matthew Gonsalves gives Barry Mann a dry, likeable humour.

A consistently strong ensemble cover an eclectic variety of office workers, executives, singers and performers. As scenes slide smoothly into routines and songs, the energy never drops.

Dereck McLane’s design is slick, interchangeable and multi layered - simple when it needs to be and lavish for the high energy numbers. Combined with Alejo Vietti’s superbly evocative costume design, the overall look is a delight.

Beautiful was a major hit on Broadway and in the West End. It’s not hard to see why. A strong story and some of the best popular songs ever written results in a show that needs to be seen.

Sublime, emotional and heartfelt theatre that hits all the right notes. Don’t miss it. To 11-11-17

Tom Roberts


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