Theatre review - Beautiful, The Carole King Musical, The Palace Theatre, Manchester
PUBLISHED: 14:37 14 December 2017 | UPDATED: 14:40 14 December 2017
A dazzling performance from Bronté Barbé in this joyful celebration of the life and music of Carole King
Beautiful, The Carole King Musical has won rave reviews on Broadway and the West End, so it’s no surprise that as the cast took their final bows last night in Manchester, the auditorium was on its feet and many a voice was heard making its way to the car park singing their own version of King’s hit ‘I Feel the Earth Move’
Before this show, I had absolutely no awareness of Carole King, but, I now know, I was very familiar – sing along and know the words familiar – with many, many of her songs.
King has had a long career, still in her teens when she signed up with impresario Donnie Kirshner, along with her then husband, lyricist Gerry Goffin and still going strong today – she played Hyde Park in 2016, presenting her massive album Tapestry in full for the first time.
Her road to success was a little bumpy along the way, and in this show we are given just the headlines, as it were, of her first ten years in the business. Headlines are enough: she accomplished so very much in that short time that the detail is unnecessary, broad strokes to guide us through suffice.
Quite often a musical designed to showcase the work of a single individual can be a bit forced, pushing the songs into the storyline with a shoehorn. Not the case here – King’s life is stepped out on stage with her own music, performed both by the marvellous Bronté Barbé and the rest of the talented cast. And oh what a collection of songs!
Barbé is, it has to be said, simply superb. Her voice is rich and strong and her ability to transform herself from bubbling with enthusiasm teen to betrayed wife and to strong, successful woman is marvellous. From her first scene to the last, she is completely believable and just owns that stage. Her rendition of (You Make Me Feel Like) a Natural Woman is just breathtaking.
The whole cast is very strong, with funny, feisty best friend and lyricist Cynthia Weil brought to brilliant life by Amy Ellen Richardson, who creates a superb stage partnership with Matthew Gonsalves in his role as hypochondriac composer Barry Mann.
The show is filled with fun and is a joyful celebration of not just the music of Carole King, but of the music of the time and the songwriters and singers who performed it. So very many of those songs, churned out factory style, have stayed with us that it’s not hard to argue that King and Goffin, and Weil and Mann (Up On The Roof, You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling, We Gotta Get Out of This Place) were centre stage in a positive explosion of musical evolution and revolution that had a seismic effect on the young lives in the USA and Europe at that time.
For anybody seeking a grand night out, a feel-good festive event they’ll carry with them for the whole of the season, this has to be the choice to make. It’s brilliant.
Beautiful, The Carole King Musical runs at The Palace Theatre, Manchester until January 6th.