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Review: Beautiful Is A Deft And Carefully Woven Narrative, Not Just Another Juke Box Musical

You may not know her name, you’d be surprised by how many of her songs you love!

Beautiful at the Aldwych Theatre charts the rise of the supremely talented singer songwriter, Carole King. From her first hit aged 17 in the 1960s to her success as a performer in her own right in the 1970s. With her then husband Gerry Goffin, King wrote what would be a string of more than two dozen chart hits for numerous, now iconic artists.

This show though isn’t just another juke box musical. Each track is carefully woven into the narrative to tell the inspirational story of overcoming personal heartache and creating music for future generations.

For those who don’t know, Carole King is a Grammy Award-winning American artist. Her breakthrough album Tapestry topped the U.S. album chart for 15 weeks in 1971 and remained on the charts for more than six years. Yet I’ll admit the name meant very little to me until yesterday.

Beautiful is the true story of how King’s career flourished while her marriage fell apart. Katie Brayben’s extraordinary talent shines throughout the production, which is filled with wonderful vocal performances, as the audience shares King’s laughter and tears and experience the stories behind her music. My personal highlight is her heart wrenching rendition of 'One Fine Day'. 

Alan Morrissey delivers a performance raw with emotion and vulnerability, deftly portraying King’s husband and song writing partner. Goffin’s struggles to juggle his existence in the thriving music business, with his contradictory mundane home life, ultimately leading to betrayal and a nervous breakdown. 

Also featuring Lorna Want and Ian McIntosh as song writing rivals and comic relief; Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann and Gary Trainor as King’s delightfully hit hungry music publisher, Donnie Kirshner, Beautiful: The Carole King Musical is a nostalgic whirlwind of romance and despair featuring a cornucopia of catchy tunes.

With an accomplished supporting cast that bring to life both Mann/Weil and King/Goffin tracks and a set that embodies the hustle and bustle of a thriving music industry as well as the innate calm of suburban dwelling. Viewers witness as King’s songs develop from early acoustic demos to fully realised performances in front of their eyes. By the finale you have a real tear-jerking sense of how far King has come as she sings the jubilant titular song. It is the epitome of Beautiful.


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