This evening’s Nottingham Theatre Royal press night production of Beautiful- The Carole King Musical (Tues 17th Oct 2017) features two beautiful surprises. These are in the form of actresses playing alternative roles. Firstly there is Leith Lothian the show’s alternate Carole King. Her compelling and warm hearted performance shows good emotional and vocal progression from her character as a keen song-writing teen all the way to a fêted adult professional singer/musician finally showcasing at Carnegie Hall. At times you would think you were listening to the real Carole King singing.
The second surprise is Emma Lucia taking over another main role, that of Cynthia Weil at very very short notice. Lucia’s performance comes across as assured as you would expect from a professional, but impressively and particularly so, from one for whom Beautiful marks her professional debut. Ultra confident and believable hardly expresses her impact on tonight’s rapt audience.
In the show programme the – Carole King timeline – stretches from 1942 when Carole Joan Klein (Carole King) was born. It progresses eventfully ever onwards to January 2017.
In Jan 2017 Carole King releases an updated recording of ‘One Small Voice’ in protest at President Donald Trump. Throughout the timeline we discover that her life was very full of often tragic incident and many marital and romantic relationships. Equally she created numerous popular musical hits not least her own multi-million selling album ‘Tapestry’.
For the sake of show brevity the Beautiful creatives have concentrated upon her young courtship and marriage to Gerry Goffin (Kane Oliver Parry) and their abilities to create popular music hits together. As the relationship develops we are privy to a gradual decline in their love for each other mainly due to Goffin’s wayward nature and roving eyes for the ladies. There is also a suggestion that he also suffers mentally which makes his nature one that is difficult to be around and comprehend.
Running concurrent to this relationship is another less tempestuous but romantically uncertain in the form of another songwriter and musician team Cynthia Weil (Emma Lucia) and Barry Mann (Matthew Gonsalves). The show allows them to show direct competition to the King/Goffin partnership as well as emotional support for Carole King when her marriage goes wrong and she has to find new ways of moving on personally and musically.
With his Aldon record making company’s best interests at heart with a sympathetic heart and ‘golden ear’ for his creators, Donnie Kirschner (Adam Howden) is the paternal instigator of a stream of hits from the King/Goffin and Mann/Weil teams.
The show wins on all fronts as we are treated to very stylish and stylised renditions of King’s songs by actors authentically playing Little Eva, groups The Drifters and The Shirelles, the Righteous Brothers, Neil Sedaka and Lou Adler. We loved the harmonic singing and also the terrific choreography by associate choreographer Suzanne Thomas and main choreographer Josh Prince. Director Marc Bruni’s direction is spot on particularly in the busy buzzy Aldon studio scenes. The general action is slick and the many set changes just glide into place enhancing the feel of the show without cumbersome hindrance.
The terrific touring set is designed by Derek McLane and the stupendous costumes are designed by Alejo Vietti. Lighting design comes courtesy of Peter Kaczorowski and the pin sharp sound design is created by Brian Ronan.
The live seven strong orchestra under the musical direction (and keyboard) of Patrick Hurley give the show plenty of humph and musical tenderness throughout.
The whole ensemble, often playing live music on stage, brilliantly illuminate the stage at Nottingham Theatre Royal to present Beautiful as one of the most uplifting shows to have graced the stage here for a while. And boy are we lucky to get some tremendous shows at Nottingham Theatre Royal.
The enthusiastic total standing ovation at the end is more than testament to this audience’s total appreciation of a terrific night’s entertainment featuring songs such as ‘You make me feel like a natural woman’, Pleasant Valley Sunday’, ‘You’ve Got A Friend’. ‘It’s Too Late’, ‘It Might As Well Rain Until September’, ‘Up On The Roof’, ‘The Loco-Motion’ ‘Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?’ and others.
This reviewer will still ‘love this show’ both ‘tomorrow’ and many months afterwards and we at EMT highly recommend you book before it sells out. It’s an infectiously popular and a timeless musical joy.
Beautiful – The Carole King Musical runs at Nottingham Theatre Royal until Saturday 21st Oct 2017.
Reviewer: Phil Lowe