Why Beautiful Continues To Be The Best Jukebox Musical In Town

By Shaun Nolan
Sunday 27 September 2015

I have loved Carole King for a very long time and was surrounded by her music from a young age when my mum used to play 'Tapestry' on our old Hi-Fi system in the living room. Naturally, the rumours surrounding a musical about her life opening on Broadway back in 2013 got me extremely excited and what excited me even more was the prospect of a Beautiful London transfer. Luckily, I saw a flyer advertising the transfer last Spring and booked up to go on my birthday – just three days after the official opening night. The show was incredible and reminded me that “hey, maybe jukebox musicals can be pretty damn good after all”. Six months down the line and I took a return trip to the Aldwych to see the show again and to see if it was as good of a viewing the second time around.

It’s hard to think of somewhere to start when it comes to talking about what is so fantastic about this show. The cast, first of all, are absolutely sublime and I truly think this is some of the best casting I have seen on the West End for a very long time. Olivier Award-winner Katie Brayben is incredible as Carole King and blew me away when I first saw the show, but her understudy Joanna Woodward was on as Carole this time around and was equally as fantastic. She brings a different vocal quality to the show in comparison to Katie and it brings a different perspective to King’s beautiful music. Alan Morrissey continues to be a both warming and heartbreaking Gerry Goffin and makes you feel angry at him when you’re supposed to feel angry and accepting of him when that’s appropriate too. The best casting of all though has to go to Ian McIntosh as Barry Mann and Olivier Award-winner Lorna Want as Cynthia Weil who play the fantastic couple that I feel a lot of people can see themselves in; they’re lovable, tough and adorable all at the same time, and both have such fantastic chemistry on the stage that I really am totally invested in their relationship throughout the show.

As for the way King’s catalogue of music is presented in the show and how the show presents itself, this show is a proper treat. King’s songs have been re-orchestrated and sometimes even remixed to fit into the show and each and every one of them manages to carry the original heart that was behind them when they are first performed. Both times I have seen this show, I have felt compelled to go home and take another hash at composing and performing music with as much heart and soul and this show presents its characters as feeling; the love of music in Beautiful is infectious. The staging is also so colourful and vibrant that it’s a true visual joy and Carole King’s story of true love, subsequent heartbreak and a passion for music inspires every single person in the audience to constantly stand by doing what they love to do and maybe, just maybe, they will find success.

BEAUTIFUL: THE CAROLE KING MUSICAL at the Aldwych Theatre is one of the rare productions that I loved just as much (if not more) the second time around and I would happily see the show over and over again. You can get your Beautiful tickets at, now booking through October 26th, 2016.


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Shaun Nolan

Shaun grew up listening to the cast recordings of musical theatre treasures like Miss Saigon and Cats before finding his own feet at a young age and exploring a wide breadth of musicals and shows by himself. Now that he's older and wiser, he loves nothing more than taking very regular trips down to London's West End to soak up the pure magic that he loves so much... and then coming home and sharing it with you on his own blog and London Theatre Direct.

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