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Beautiful – The Carole King Musical at Curve Leicester review

The new Leicester production is also set to embark on a UK tour

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Molly-Grace Cutler with Naomi Alade, Louise Francis and Amena El-Kindy in Beautiful – The Carole King Musical
© Ellie Kurttz

The title of Beautiful – The Carole King Musical has a perfect, ready-to-go, cliché built in for its admirers to say that Beautiful is indeed... beautiful. It is, but it is also "All Kinds of Wonderful" and luminescent. That's not just connected with the luminosity of Ben Cracknell's sparkling lighting design – it runs throughout the entire show and the cracking performances. During its brief time on the Curve main stage and further on its forthcoming UK tour this fantastic show is going to bring pure theatre joy to thousands. It also has plenty of humour amongst the live musical mix. "Happy Days Are Here Again" for sure.

Directed with aplomb by Nikolai Foster, the actor-musician show is terrifically compelling and offers us a deconstructed slice of the early life of composer-singer Carole King (Molly-Grace Cutler). Cutler gives us a passionate and warm-hearted performance that shows good emotional and vocal progression starting as the keen and talented songwriting teen, all the way to being a fêted adult professional singer-musician finally showcasing at Carnegie Hall in 1971. At times it's hard to believe that you are not listening to the real King singing. And Cutler does her justice, well, beautifully.

The story stretches from 1942 when Carole Joan Klein was born and concludes with her phenomenal success (as Carole King) with the multi-million selling album "Tapestry". Her life story is packed with often tragic incidents and many a problematic marital and romantic relationship. Beautiful concentrates on her relationship with fellow songwriter Gerry Goffin (Tom Milner) and the impact that had on her life and ability to write a continuous flow of hit songs through her long-term American music publisher, Donnie Kirshner (Garry Robson) at the Brill Building in New York. With his Aldon record-making company's best interests at heart and with a sympathetic heart and ‘golden ear' for his creators, Kirshner is the paternal instigator of a stream of hits from the King/Goffin and Barry Mann/Cynthia Weil teams. Robson gives us an accomplished business-like but kindly Kirshner.

As the relationship between King and Goffin develops, we are privy to a gradual decline in their love for each other mainly due to Goffin's wayward nature and roving eyes for the ladies. There is also a suggestion that he also suffers mentally which makes his persona one that is difficult to be around and comprehend. Milner captures all the charm, instability and talent of Goffin well.

Running parallel to the key relationship, with its dramas and its humour, is the less tempestuous but uncertain romantic partnership of Weil (Seren Sandham Davies) and Mann (Jos Slovick). The show allows them to show direct competition to the King/Goffin partnership as well as emotional support for King when her marriage goes wrong and she has to find new ways of moving on personally and musically.

This Made At Curve liquid gold production wins on all fronts from the deconstructive – reconstructive staging aspects at the fast-beating, fast-moving creative heart of the story-telling to the clever set design (Frankie Bradshaw) where the open construct of the set demonstrates the obvious theatricality of the work even down to sections of the audience being able to see what is happening in the wings. Sarah Travis' musical directorship and soundtracking blends brilliantly with the actor-musos' talented portrayals of singing groups like The Righteous Brothers, The Shirelles, The Drifters and artists like Neil Sedaka. "The 1650 Broadway Melody" by the ensemble is a shining example of taking a familiar show and going that extra mile with its presentation. The whole seamless show is superbly choreographed by Leah Hill and the fluid movement includes the manipulation of the set and constant flow of characters in and around the Brill Building as well as the stylised 1960s dancing from the pop groups.

If you love songs like "(You Make Me Fell Like) A Natural Woman", "Pleasant Valley Sunday", "You've Got A Friend", "It's Too Late", "It Might As Well Rain Until September", "Up On The Roof", "The Locomotion", "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow" and the titular track, you will have a joyous time and go home thoroughly uplifted by Beautiful – The Carole King Musical and its brilliant cast. Never mind "One Fine Day", this show is one finer-than-fine evening at the theatre. It rocks!

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