reviewed at the Theatre Royal, Norwich on 3 October
As shows hewn out of back catalogues go, Beautiful: The Carole King Musical is much more enjoyable than most. Just launched on its post-West End tour, it juxtaposes two couples.
The main one is song composer Carole King (Bronté Barbé) and her future husband lyricist Gerry Goffin (Kane Oliver Parry). Then there’s a less intense and more wise-cracking pair – lyricist and singer Cynthia Weil (Amy Ellen Richardson) and hypochondriac composer Barry Mann (Matthew Gonsalves).
Carole’s mother Genie Klein (Carol Royle) and music publisher Donnie Kirschner (Adam Howden) act as their stimuli as the story moves from 1958 to 1971, from young beginners fighting for their first vital contracts and professional contacts to Carnegie Hall itself.
Visual impressions are no longer a mere matter of smoke and mirrors. Their place has been taken by lights and scaffolding, give or take the odd item of furniture, staircases and a couple of pianos.
Derek McLane’s sets, Alejo Vietti’s costumes and Peter Kaczorowski’s lighting ensure that Marc Bruni’s production keeps on the move.
Josh Prince’s choreography also reflects the decades in question and is very well danced by the 12-person ensemble with Esme Laudat and Khalid Daley in particular making their presence felt.
As King, Barbé manages the transitions between eager schoolgirl, young wife and solo performer effectively and puts over the feelings as well as the words and notes of her numbers. Richardson makes a fine contrast. Parry and Gonsalves play far less sympathetic characters equally well.
Four star rating.
Beautiful: The Carole King Musical runs at the Theatre Royal, Norwich until 7 October with matinées on 4, 5 and 7 October. it also plays at the Cliffs Pavilion, Southend between 10 and 14 October and at the Regent Theatre, Ipswich between 17 and 21 April 2018.