I really enjoyed ‘Beautiful’, a musical inspired in Carole King. I discovered that this is the best way to produce a biopic about a singer. This show has some ingredients that make it successful: great songs, catchy, interesting story and moving. I also think that what’s great is the mixture of musical styles and performances, lots of bands and singers perform King’s songs. I didn’t know her songs but I realised that most of them were familiar to me and I loved the character too, very well created and yes, beautiful.
The show focuses on the beginning of Carole King’s career. With 16 years, she has a dream: to become a songwriter. But her mother says that she should be a music teacher. She usually writes songs and sell them to producers. At college she meets Gerry Goffin, who will be his first husband and professional partner. Together they produce lots of songs. She creates the music and he writes the lyrics. They meet Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann, a couple who write songs too. All of them are looking for a hit and they try to write for some of the most popular singers and bands in USA.
Carole and Gerry, and Cynthia and Barry are competing all the time, but it’s true that the main couple are the most successful. They get the bigger hits, but also their relationship it’s more difficult. They met when they were very young but they have changed throw years. So, Carole will fight to produce her own album as a solo singer and become the star that is nowadays.
I enjoyed the story so much, I didn’t expect something like that, I think it was a great idea to produce it as a show, now I understand all the success in Broadway and London. The first act you can see Carole King finding her own voice, learning about music, discovering love and human relationships. The way is though, but she has Gerry next to her to help her. Also, Cynthia and Barry, who are competing, but are a motivation to overcome, to keep creating new stuff, and are good friends.
Then, the second act is more complex, because you see the love failure and how Carole King does her best to make him back to her. But it simply doesn’t work, sad but true. Is at this time when she realises that the best option for her is to look after herself, to develop her career, to keep creating new songs and produce a solo album, which is called ‘Tapestry’, released in 1972 with popular songs like ‘It’s Too Late’, ‘Will You Love Me Tomorrow?’ or ‘(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman’.
I don’t consider myself a fan of jukebox musicals, because I think that they are made to attract some of the fans of the groups or bands. I prefer new stories and new songs especially created to explain that story. But this kind of shows work well too, otherwise they won’t be made. The producers usually get popular singers and bands and create a show based on her songs, because they think that many fans can go and see it. The show can be a funny story like ‘Mamma Mia’, with songs by ABBA (or a very weird one like ‘We Will Rock You’ with songs by Queen), or a biopic like ‘Jersey Boys’ with songs by Frank Valli and the Four Seasons, or ‘Beautiful’.
But I think that Carole King has such an amazing repertory of songs that I understand that can be used in a show. Probably most of the audience that goes to the Aldwych Theatre knows her songs, but I recommend the show to people who don’t, like me, because you can be surprised and enjoy the performances too. There are lots of powerful songs like ‘Beautiful’ and ‘One Fine Day’ that even made me cry. Watching King changing throw years and songs it’s wonderful to see and enjoy some of the songs, that are catchy nowadays too, is recommendable who wants to have a fun night.
At the end of the first act, I was kind of disappointed because Katie Brayben (who plays Carole King) wasn’t singing too many solos. Most of the songs that were performed by different bands or singers like Little Eva, The Shirelles, Janelle and The Drifters. But it’s very comprehensible because she wasn’t a singer yet; she was composing songs for other people. But I was waiting for a diva solo (don’t worry, it comes at the second act). That was also good, because there are lots of different performances with different music styles and effects. I enjoyed so much ‘Locomotion’, with a beautiful choreography and effects (which I won’t spoil).
The second act it’s great too, with basically the main roles performing most of the songs. Here Carole King finds her voice and she sings some of the best songs on the show, like the very emotional ‘(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman’ or the powerful ‘Beautiful’. I think that this part is more dramatic, the story and the songs are in a different level very enjoyable for all the audience. Everything is more mature, really complex, the characters learn a lot from their mistakes and adversities.
The cast is amazing. Katie Brayben plays Carole King in a great way. I still have in my mind some pictures of her singing and crying at the same time ‘One Fine Day’. And Lorna Want as Cynthia, Alan Morrisey as Gerry and Ian Mcintosh as Barry are incredible too, such an amazing people performing and singing very well.
I truly recommend this musical. It’s a wonderful biopic with lots of positive and artistic songs, with great performances, with lots of styles and effects. It’s really wonderful to see. Also it’s an inspiriting story, very interesting and entertaining, a good way to understand where is the Carole King’s creativity coming from. The cast shines on themselves and Katie, as Carole, has an amazing voice that won’t disappoint in great solos like ‘Beautiful’. It’s a musical dedicated to Carole King and all the people who love her, but also enjoyable for all the people who don’t know her like me, because it’s a good way to discover her amazing story and get inspired by her. I left the Aldwych Theatre with a huge smile on my face.