REVIEW: Beautiful – Aldwych Theatre, London
A little lacking in plot, it is the star-making turn of Katie Brayben which elevates Beautiful above your common or garden jukebox musical.
Tracking the life and career of Carol King, from prodigiously talented child, through her teenage marriage to fellow Brooklyn resident and musical genius Gerry Goffin, (the songs come easy but King’s personal life fails to mirror her chart success) to her subsequent solo career and the record-breaking (25 million copies sold) 1971 album Tapestry.
While the book fails to really sparkle, the music and the acting deliver entertainment in spades.
Throw into the mix the friendly rivalry between Goffin and King and fellow hit factory pairing Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil and the hits just keep on coming.
There’s Neil Sedaka, the shiny-suited Drifters, The Shirelles resplendent in bubblegum pink satin, the Righteous Brothers and Little Eva to name only a few. And the songs, oh, what songs: Will You Love Me Tomorrow, Up on the Roof, You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling, We Gotta Get Out of This Place, On Broadway, The Locomotion, Pleasant Valley Sunday, Natural Woman and You’ve Got a Friend are just a few, and hearing these classic hits delivered with such care and enthusiasm, is a tonic for even the hardest of hearts.
Beautiful fails to scratch any deeper than the surface but it is an undeniably entertaining night at the theatre with an outstanding cast and score: Brayben, Alan Morrissey as Gerry Goffin and Ian McIntosh & Lorna Want as Mann & Weill are exceptionally talented (as are the supporting cast). An utter joy for the ears, it should be praised for throwing King, this hugely talented woman, centre stage and firmly in the spotlight where she and her world-beating music deserve to be.