I don’t know how good a representation this musical is to Carole King’s life, but irrespective of that, “Beautiful” is a captivating story. Many, myself included, feared that this musical would be a broadcast of the classics with little to no enticing storytelling to back up the journey involved to create these songs. However, these doubts were quickly dismissed. Douglas McGrath has created a truly marvelous and original piece of work that takes the audience on the adventure that is Carole King and her music.
The script is well rehearsed and serves as the backbone of each song. The lines are drafted meticulously, bridging the gaps between the musical numbers and the story itself. This alone, makes “Beautiful” a joy to watch.
When one leaves a musical theatre performance, one may remember the brilliant musical numbers that were played. For me, I have something better, memories of the strong and distinct vocals of Katie Brayben. Brayben’s strong voice came across both in her songs and in her dialogues and I cannot think of anyone that is more deserving of the Olivier Award for Best Actress in a Musical.
I have congratulated and applauded Brayben’s performance, but the rest of the cast members were also majestic. Lorna Want and Ian McIntosh’s portrayals of Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann in particular, were extremely charming. The blossoming and much slower paced relationship between Weil and Mann served as a nice contrast to the lightning development of Carole King and Gerry Goffin’s. The two sets of relationships entwined and unravelled before the audiences and brought the spectators ever closer to the life of the characters.
Of course, one cannot appreciate this story without appreciating the songs. “It might as well rain until September”, “Some kind of wonderful” and “You’ve got a friend” were only some of the songs I loved. “You’ve got a friend” was played at the most opportune moment and reflected that Carole King had embraced her past and also was thankful of the people she met on this journey. But perhaps, more importantly, showed the audience that she was ready for a new adventure.
Carole King’s music might have inspired a generation, but the telling of her story and this musical will continue to inspire artists and musicians for generations to come.
Review by Xi Ye
Wednesday 27th May 2015