Reviewed by Jan Mellor
I don’t think I know any Carole King songs, but I had heard of her and was intrigued as to what would be in the show. On reading the programme as I took my seat at the theatre, there was a list of many hits that I knew – so I was taken by surprise from the onset. #
The show opened with a young girl playing a grand piano on an empty stage (Carole King) explaining to the audience how she couldn’t believe that she was a girl who practiced in her little house and was now playing to a packed Carnegie Hall. We are taken back to that room with a mother shouting at her passionate 17-year-old daughter (who had yet another song that she wanted publishing) to become a teacher (a proper job), Carole however was determined and once the producer Donnie Kirshner heard her song – ‘It might as well rain until September’ he was hooked and Carole was on her way to stardom. Carole meets Gerry Goffin the lyricist and together they quickly fall in love and marry producing along the way amazing hits that include ‘Wonderful’, ‘Take good care of my baby’, ‘Will you love me tomorrow’ and ‘Up on the roof’. As each song was introduced, the stage opened up to the groups that made these songs famous – including the Shirelles and a step-perfect The Drifters. Wonderful in itself.
As well as the wonderful songs from King and Goffin they have competition with friends Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil who together produced other great hits such as ‘Walking in the rain’, ‘He’s sure the boy I love’ and their massive hit (made famous by the Righteous Brothers) ‘You’ve lost that loving feeling’.
The story shows how the two couples, although competitive, support each other through the ups and downs of stardom and the ensuing pressures that trying to write consistent hits, puts on people and relationships. In telling this story the audience went along on this bumpy ride of elation and heartbreak too and loved every minute.
As Act 2 came to a close with Carole now separated from her cheating husband and her having produced such amazing hits as ‘It’s too late’, ‘You’ve got a friend’ an amazing rendition of ‘(You make me feel) like a natural woman’ to spiralling her to a world-famous artist in 1971 with her album ‘Tapestry’ – we are brought back to Carole singing ‘Beautiful’ in Carnegie Hall to a standing ovation. I was so pleasantly surprised that I knew all of Carole King’s great songs and so glad she had had the passion all those years ago to defy her mother and make these incredible songs that have been a ‘Tapestry’ of most of our lives.
The show was wonderful. Each member of the cast was note and step perfect with great choreography, stunning voices and a love for the songs they sang that oozed throughout the theatre. I heard someone in the audience say ‘how fantastic to watch a show that I know all the songs’ and I agreed – it felt like a trip down our own memory lane with was not only nostalgic but heart-warming. A stunning performance by the main cast Bronte Barbe (King), Kane Oliver Parry (Goffin), Amy Ellen Richardson (well), Matthew Gonsalves (Mann) and Adam Howden(Kirshner) and Carol Royle (mother).
A fantastic show. It’s beautiful!
Tickets cost from £14.90 to £77.40 (plus £2.85 transaction fee).
Beautiful – The Carole King Musical is at the Liverpool Empire from 1-5 May 2018, for more information or to book tickets visit www.atgtickets.com/liverpool or call the box office on 0844 8713017.
Liverpool Empire Theatre, Lime Street, Liverpool, Merseyside, L1 1JE | 0844 8713017