The award-winning Broadway and West End musical about Carole King’s life stops at Cardiff’s New Theatre on its UK tour.
Beautiful features the songs and inspiring life story of songwriter Carole King. The jukebox musical is toe-tapping feel-good 60s nostalgia, but with a story full of heart about one of the greatest songwriters of our time.
From the first notes, it is clear that Molly-Grace Cutlet (who plays Carole King) has the vocal prowess and stage presence to do the role justice. Her voice has a twangy yet beautiful tone that is able to execute songs such as One Fine Day and Will You Love Me Tomorrow? perfectly.
She plays the role of conservative Carole; a self-confessed ‘square’ with a thick Brooklyn accent and humorous one liners, from a 16-year-old schoolgirl to a 28-year-old mother. The timeline is a little unclear as Carole dons the same costumes for long periods and the show moves quickly from song to song without clarifying the year or indeed, her current age.
The rolling set is also somewhat peculiar and takes some getting used to as scenes transition in front of the audience in a post-modern take. Despite this, the revolving cast who feature as on-stage musicians throughout (who also play her mother, friends and record producers, through to The Drifters and The Shirelles) are phenomenally talented. However, at times, the vocals of the famous groups didn’t always gel and could have been stronger and more assured.
The array of musical instruments onstage includes guitars and pianos as well as drums, woodwind and percussion. Each character plays their instrument with musicality and confidence. Combined, they create a wonderful sound in what must be appreciated as a celebration of fantastic musicianship.
The supporting cast played their roles with conviction: Tom Milner plays Carole’s song writing partner and angst-ridden husband Gerry Goffer well, so much so that his reappearance towards the end caused disdain amongst the audience.
What’s a story about success without some healthy competition? Song writing duo Cynthia Weil (Seren Sandham-Davies) and Barry Mann (Jos Slovick) provide more depth to the story and offer a completely different, at times comedic, dynamic, and their duet Walking in the Rain is an emotional and serene number. Barry offers a humorous outlet and conveys an air of exasperation with his funny lines, facial expressions and painful rendition of You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling, in particular.
Whilst the first act provides hit after hit that makes you realise just how many songs Carole King was responsible for, the second act is altogether stronger, more powerful and mature. Act opener Chains is an amazing acapella, choral number that sets a precedent for the rest of the show. The second act is also where the audience sees Carole show her, at times, overshadowed passion and finally have the confidence to stand up for herself.
The group camaraderie and friendships are expressed through You Got a Friend, which is particularly moving, as is Natural Woman which is a showstopper; Carole’s powerful vocals are sung with pure emotion, refining her sound and performing without the comfort of her piano.
Beautiful – The Carole King Musical is a great insight into the song writing business, the peaks and pitfalls of success and the stripped back, raw nature of human relationships. The celebration of Carole to close the show is fitting; her work should be admired and this musical is a great place to start.
Beautiful is on at the New Theatre, Cardiff from Tues 24th – Sat 28th May 2022.
Tickets are available at: Beautiful The Carole King Musical | New Theatre, Cardiff