APRIL FAVOURITE: Beautiful The Carole King Musical

As a rule I tend to approach jukebox musicals with an air of caution. After all, they’re everywhere. Mamma Mia, We Will Rock You, Rock of Ages, Thriller, Buddy, Jersey Boys, Tonight’s the Night and American Idiot all fall into the jukebox category and it’s increasingly obvious that these are the shows that the general public want to see. Musicals with already-familiar-to-us scores are crowd drawers. With ticket prices soaring, theatregoers seem content to splash the cash on a show that guarantees some recognisable songs for a theatrical sing-along. With Beautiful: The Carole King Musical receiving seven Tony nominations, I wondered if this jukebox musical was a stand out candidate.I believe that theatre shows based on real life events or inspired by the lives of various iconic personas can be incredibly interesting. Evita, Funny Girl and Bonnie and Clyde are amongst my favourite shows, each providing an evening’s entertainment that is engaging, touching and memorable. The latter received mixed to negative reviews during its short Broadway run; Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Stephen Ward flop proves that “real” storylines are not the key to success yet there is still something charming about a plot that rings true with events with which we are already familiar.

In this sense Beautiful is no different. The show details the rise of King’s career from a teenager dreaming of becoming a songwriter all the way to her first performance at Carnegie Hall. In addition, it portrays the meandering nature of her marriage to Gerry Goffin (who was also her writing partner) and her close friendship with her rival songwriters Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann. Although providing insight to King’s personal struggles and reluctance to step into the spotlight, I failed to make a strong connection with the plot line or any of the characters presented to me. Drawn in by the polished and witty script by Douglas McGrath, I did not feel any emotional link forming between myself and the stage therefore could not share the joys or sorrows of any characters throughout the show.

In addition to the polished writing, scene changes are well executed and the scenery itself is relatively simple and effective. Through an array of costumes and colour featured in the show, the character of Cynthia Weil enjoys a selection of attractive outfits, contrasting with the motherly wardrobe of King. There is a particularly impressive on stage costume change towards the end of act one as a plainly dressed babysitter transforms into Little Eva and performs The Locomotion. The music featured in the show, as anyone who is familiar with Carole King’s work will already know, is simply stunning. Her melodies are haunting and continue to echo around my mind. Anyone interested in King’s work or this show will benefit from a purchase of the cast recording which ranges from You’ve Got a Friend to On Broadway and Will You Love Me Tomorrow to a clever rewriting of Happy Days Are Here Again.

I wish Beautiful: The Carole King Musical the best of luck for the Tonys 2014. They are true contenders and I hope they receive the recognition they deserve.

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