Carole King is an inspirational woman. Her story is a fascinating one; often moving, at times turbulent, her path to success was clearly not straight-forward. Which is perhaps what makes Beautiful: The Carole King Musical such an interesting watch – like Jersey Boys before it, this jukebox musical is fit-to-bursting with recognisable tunes that are irresistibly uplifting, but it’s the true-life narrative of the star behind the songs that will keep audiences flocking back for more.
Recounting King’s life story from the age of 16 through to 29, we see the impressionable songwriter growing up in Brooklyn, and meet and fall in love with her first husband, Gerry Goffin. Together they make incredible music, and once The Shirelles take their first hit to number one it’s not long before they can both quit their jobs and take to song-writing full time. Their prolific working relationship produces a string of hits and their friendly rivalry with fellow songwriters Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann pepper their early career with a little healthy competition. In spite of a heart-breaking rift in her marriage, Carole finds the courage to step in front of the microphone, and start making the hit songs her own.
There’s something inherently interesting about seeing the adversity overcome by our most familiar stars – the rags to riches story of Jersey Boys has made it one of the most enduringly popular in the West End – and Beautiful will be no different. Carole King’s road to stardom was paved with heartache, but it undoubtedly inspired and prepared her for the deeply intimate and personal song-writing trend of the early Seventies.
The list of songs that appear in the show is simply extraordinary, a testament to the song-writing talent of King and her collaborators; So Far Away, It Might As Well Rain Until September, Will You Love Me Tomorrow, The Locomotion, It’s Too Late, You’ve Got a Friend, (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman and I Feel The Earth Move all appear. It’s no surprise that in 2013 King became the first female recipient of the Gershwin Prize for Popular Song, a prestigious national honour presented to her by President Obama at the White House.
Even the show’s star, London girl Katie Brayben, is in total awe of the singer-songwriter’s impressive back-catalogue. She told Whatsonstage “What I didn’t know was how much of her and Gerry’s music I knew and adored already and hadn’t realised they’d written…” before adding about King “she’s a generous, loving soul.”
More than anything, Carole King – the character, and the woman – exude an infectious talent and warmth which is simply perfect material for a musical. The test of a truly great show is whether you want to spend two hours getting to know the lead character, and with Beautiful: The Carole King Musical you absolutely, most definitely do.
Planning to see new show Beautiful: The Carole King Musical this year? Let us know in the comments section below…