I’m a massive fan of musical theatre, I grew up with cassette tapes of musicals in my parent’s car as a child. By osmosis, I had a familiarity of these songs without knowing anything about the show they belong to. I vividly remember the first proper show I went to – Philip Schofield in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat. The whole production blew my mind. I’d never seen anything like it, and I was hooked.
I’ve seen a fair few musicals since this, generally all pretty good – the odd stinker (I’m looking at you ‘I Can’t Sing – The X Factor Musical’). Beautiful – The Carole King Story is a musical that’s been around in Broadway for a few years now, and been in London from 2015. It’s had good reviews, won awards, and importantly, still going strong in London’s competitive West End.
With Miss A’s birthday approaching, and her being a Carole King fan it seemed a great time to catch Beautiful – The Carole King Story.
It’s currently running (until at least July 2017) at the Aldwych Theatre, in the heart of the West End. The Aldwych is a lovely venue – not the biggest in town, but, well beautiful within it’s own right.
The show is essentially a biography of Carole King, from her late teenage years to her iconic Carnegie Hall performance. It tells the story of her relationship with her song writing partner, and husband Gerry Goffin. How their relationship starts, flourishes, and (spoiler alert) ends. Along with their friendship with fellow song writing power couple Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann. It offers a slice of 60’s and 70’s musical history.
I was blown away by the staging of this production – it doesn’t rely on projection, or massive digital screens. It’s looks so traditional, lots of bright bulbs and glorious technicolour, even the textures in the elements look glorious. The way the sets move in, and the props swing around is wonderful. There are also fantastic Family Guy style ‘cut to’s’ from either side of the stage, bursting to life and capturing your attention. There’s so much going on at once, it’s overwhelming – it’s a fest for the eyes.
Considering Carole King and Gerry Goffin were behind some of the most iconic pop songs – you won’t be surprised to hear the music is sublime. The track list of the show is unlike any other you’ll hear. It’s not like a traditional musical where the action is set to song. This is the story behind the music – and cleverly, the music is apt to the moment. I’ll never listen to ‘One Fine Day’ in the same way.
It’s hard not to tap your feet and get into the music, it’s all wonderfully performed by the cast and ensemble. I was surrounded by a lot of husbands who’d clearly been dragged along to watch. Looking around as the show unfolded, so many of them were smiling incessantly and nodding along to the songs. You’d have to be dead inside not to enjoy the music.
Beautiful – The Carole King Story isn’t a totally happy story, but it doesn’t wallow in sadness. It’s paced so well, there aren’t any ‘dead spots’ like you might find in even some of the biggest musicals. The songs are simply wonderful, and the cast and ensemble are incredible. I’ve not felt so emotional watching theatre for a long time. Special mention must go to Cassidy Janson who plays Carole King – I’ve never heard such a powerful voice from such a tiny person. She is utterly captivating every second she is on the stage – a tour de force of talent!
I was actually sad that it when it was over, it was a wonderful world to get lost in. It’s a brilliant story and truly uplifting and life affirming. It proves you don’t need massive digital screens and clever trickery to draw you in to a world. It’s classic theatre with wonderful music, and brilliant storytelling. I implore you to go see it. I want to go again, and again just to absorb more of Beautiful – The Carole King Musical.
A vibrant, fun and heart-warming musical, with some of the best music and storytelling you’ll see in the West End. Don’t hesitate in treating yourself to a ticket – you won’t regret it!