Theatre Review: BEAUTIFUL: THE CAROLE KING MUSICAL – Palace Theatre, Manchester

The cast of BEAUTIFUL: THE CAROLE KING MUSICAL UK Tour

The cast of BEAUTIFUL: THE CAROLE KING MUSICAL. Photo Credit: Birgit & Ralf Brinkhoff

Bold, bright and beautiful, Marc Bruni’s touring production of BEAUTIFUL: THE CAROLE KING MUSICAL proves itself a cut above the rest

From JERSEY BOYS and ALL OR NOTHING, to the more recent THE BAND, it’s fair to say you’re spoilt for choice when it comes to jukebox musicals. But where others are generic and somewhat predictable, BEAUTIFUL: THE CAROLE KING MUSICAL proves itself a cut above the rest.

Based on the inspiring true story of Grammy award-winner singer/songwriter Carole King, BEAUTIFUL charts King’s personal life and remarkable rise to stardom. The bio-jukebox starts with King (Bronte Barbe) at the tender age of 16 on the verge of selling her first song to Don Kirshner (Adam Howden) at 50s and 60s label Aldon Music. Before we know it, she’s pregnant to budding lyricist Gerry Goffin (Kane Oliver Parry), her writing partner and husband of nine years, and a playful rivalry begins between the pair and fellow writing friends Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil.

Bold, bright and beautiful, Marc Bruni’s touring production of BEAUTIFUL is nothing short of genius. Unlike other jukebox musicals which tend to rely on the songs to drive the story, BEAUTIFUL chooses to focus on King’s emotional journey, exploring how her flawed relationship with husband Gerry Goffin allowed her to find her true voice, as well as the rivalry with best friends Mann and Weil helped spurred them on to write some of the best songs in musical history.

Bronte Barbe is a revelation as King, capturing the vulnerability, joy and strength of the songwriter, wife and mother, as well as the intimacy of the singer’s voice. Sensibly, Bronte does not attempt to impersonate King, but rather deliver an interpretation of the woman, in a performance that is sensitive and beautifully balanced.

The cast of BEAUTIFUL: THE CAROLE KING MUSICAL UK Tour

The cast of BEAUTIFUL: THE CAROLE KING MUSICAL. Photo Credit: Birgit & Ralf Brinkhoff

The musical also benefits from an excellent supporting cast, with Parry delivering an impressive performance as Goffin, King’s charming but troubled husband. Matthew Gonsalves and Amy Ellen Richardson also shine as ‘counter’ couple Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, providing some great comic moments.

But, of course, the real star of the show is the stellar soundtrack with countless classics from Goffin and King’s back catalogue including YOU MAKE ME FEEL LIKE A NATURAL WOMAN, TAKE GOOD CARE OF MY BABY, IT MIGHT AS WELL RAIN UNTIL SEPTEMBER, UP ON THE ROOF, and LOCOMOTION. Transitioning into the songs with style and sophistication, the variety in the music and the acts that materialise to perform them, including the Drifters, the Shirelles, Janelle Woods, Little Eva, Marilyn Ward and Neil Sedaka, are a joy to watch and the music is performed with real care and attention to detail, entirely fitting for an artist like King.

With its talented cast, stunning musical score and clever narrative, it’s easy to see why BEAUTIFUL: THE CAROLE KING MUSICAL won two Tony Awards and two Olivier Awards. An entertaining, moving and joyous production that sets a standard for the jukebox musical.

(5 / 5)

BEAUTIFUL: THE CAROLE KING MUSICAL at the Palace Theatre, Manchester, runs until 6 January 2018.

About Donna

Donna is the Editor of Frankly, My Dear UK. By day, she is a digital marketing whizz, by night she reviews film, theatre and music for a wide range of publications including WhatsonStage, The Public Reviews and ScreenRelish. Loves Shakespeare, prosecco and Formula 1