Reviewed by Katy Hart
Last evening I had the pleasure of going to see Beautiful – The Carole King Musical at the New Theatre in Oxford.
We arrived in good time, enjoyed a drink in the theatre’s ‘Piano Bar’ and took a moment to unwind and relax. As we entered the main theatre the stage was set with a single grand piano. The lights came up and we were in the audience at a Carnegie Hall concert with Carole King. The storyline then immediately transports you back in time to Carole’s home where we see her as an ordinary 16-year-old girl with an extraordinary talent. We follow her as her career aspirations change from that of being a teacher to becoming a songwriter, and we share her excitement as she makes a trip to 1650 Broadway and sells her first song to Donnie Kirshner, a publisher there.
The musical continues the story of the early life and career of Carole and her incredible journey to becoming one of the most successful songwriters and solo performers in popular music history. By her twenties, Carole had married the man of her dreams, had an enviable career and was writing hits for some of the biggest acts of the time. The musical numbers that feature throughout are songs that Carole wrote and have become the soundtrack to a generation of people worldwide. They include classics hits such as You Make Me Feel Like A Natural Woman, Take Good Care of my Baby, Locomotion and It Might As Well Rain Until September.
The original production of Beautiful premiered in the West End in February 2015, and this UK tour commenced September 2017.
It really is a musical crammed full of great music, I hadn’t realised just how many songs Carole had written for other artists – what a talented woman in what was a very male dominated career choice. The fact that this is based on a true story really makes it a moving yet uplifting experience.
Carole King is played by the talented Bronté Barbé and she gave a wonderfully emotional performance last evening. Her vocal prowess is sure to impress any audience. (Bronté was a finalist in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Over the Rainbow BBC series). Her voice blended perfectly with that of her Husband and song-writing partner, Gerry Goffin (Kane Oliver Parry). Cynthia (Amy Ellen Richardson) and Barry (Matthew Gonslaves) Carole and Gerry’s song-writing rivals also gave powerful performances. Matthew’s sense of humour lightened the sometimes very emotional mood on stage, and his performance of You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling alongside the Righteous Brothers was a highlight for me. The stage was a constant whirlwind of talent as the ensemble took on the roles of the Drifters, the Shirelles and the Righteous Brothers.
The whole production team including the cast, the musicians, the choreography, stage management, wardrobe etc. have worked brilliantly together to bring this ‘Beautiful’ musical to life. As the lights go up and the music and dancing stop, you take a little bit of it home with you. I’d thoroughly recommend this production, it was a ‘Beautiful’ end to a busy day.
Tickets cost from £15 to £69.50 (plus £4 transaction fee).
Beautiful – The Carole King Musical is at the New Theatre in Oxford from 8-12 May 2018, for more information or to book tickets visit www.atgtickets.com/oxford or call the box office on 0844 871 3020.
New Theatre Oxford, George Street, Oxford, OX1 2AG | 0844 871 3020