The story of Carole King is quite a story. A fresh-faced 16 year-old who sold a song, married, established herself as one half of a song-writing duo, and years later found herself performing her own music. There’s more to it than that, but I don’t want to ruin the story for when you go and see Beautiful, the Carole King Musical. Because that’s something you really need to do.
The soundtrack to this musical is pure brilliance. As the posters proclaim, it contains ‘hit after hit’, and is basically a catalogue of many of the most-loved songs of the 60s and 70s. My aunt and uncle described it as their ‘soundtrack to growing up’. And I, even though I wasn’t born until 1992 so definitely missed out on this era, recognised a good 80% of the songs. I guess that alone says something for the enduring appeal of King’s music.
As well as being a fascinating and inspiring story, the musical is excellently put together. The set was relatively simple, with the small piano gliding on and off the stage to take its position for the hours of composing and rehearsing. Very often, a song would be being written and suddenly the piano and writers would disappear, and the stage was set for a stunning performance by artists such as The Drifters. The ensemble played the diverse range of artists superbly, and these moments again highlighted what a range of acts Carole King and her close-knit group of friends were writing for.
Cynthia and Barry, the other song-writing duo of the story were a fantastic double act. Lorna Want played Cynthia’s confidence and wit to perfection, and Ian McIntosh was a natural as lovable hypochondriac Barry. Their story was a lovely one, and I found the power the two couples had over the music industry at that time, in terms of the success of their writing, really interesting. McIntosh blew me away with his rendition of ‘We Gotta Get Outta This Place’, and ‘Happy Days are Here Again’ immediately let the audience know what a star Lorna Want was to be.
Gerry, King’s husband, was a complex character, and Alan Morrissey stepped up with confidence. It was easy to see why Carole had been impressed with him on first meeting, and I thought he handled the emotions and subsequent struggles of his character well. His voice was beautiful too, standing out for me particularly in ‘Take Good Care of my Baby’ and ‘Up on the Roof’.
I’ve left Cassidy Janson until last, because I could easily have written the whole post on her performance. Here was my post-show tweet:
‘@cassidyjanson is truly something special in Beautiful – just phenomenal’
That sums it up, really, Her voice was astonishing, and the way she played Carole King from being a naïve 16 year-old to a mature, established woman who had been through more than many women ever do at such a young age was flawless. Her performance of ‘One Fine Day’ had me in tears with its raw emotion and passion, as did her performance of ‘Beautiful’ at the Carnegie Hall. The pride I felt during that final song was as if I knew the character personally, and had been there through all her struggles. For that two and half hours, I was completely captivated by Janson.
I’m hoping to lure my parents along to see this with me, as I simply must see it again.
If I’m honest, I hadn’t quite known what to expect, knowing very little about Carole King, but I’m so glad I reacted to the reviews and booked tickets. Fantastic.