We feel the earth move with a great collection of songs that tell the story of the early years of a song writing legend
Go on, be honest, did you know that songwriter supreme Carole King wrote The Locomotion for Little Eva, or Pleasant Valley Sunday for The Monkees, or I’m Into Something Good for Herman’s Hermits, or any number of massive, timeless hits for the artists as varied as Maria Carey, The Animals, Celine Dion and The Drifters?
In fact, according to the programme for Beautiful – The Carole King Musical, which is playing at the Bristol Hippodrome until 7 April, more than 1,000 artists have interpreted the songs of Carole King, resulting in 100 hit singles. Blimey!
Beautiful – The Carole King Musical tells the story of the early years of this amazing writer’s career, from a 16 year old trying to sell her first hit to her triumphant performance of her classic album Tapestry at Carnegie Hall in 1971. The result is a remarkable jukebox of hit after hit after hit, with the talented cast taking on the roles of the Shirelles, The Drifters, Little Eva, Neil Sedaka, The Righteous Brothers and more.
Throughout the songs are brought together by a story of love, friendship, talent and the somehow inevitable heartbreak that seems to accompany every musical biography. Central to the plot is of course Carole King, portrayed here by Bronté Barbé, a clearly talented actor who brings real emotion and feeling to the part. For example, the scene where she breaks up with husband Gerry Goffin is genuinely touching, with Barbé at one point bringing a vulnerability to the character and at another a clear determination and self belief.
Now I’m sorry about this but there is a big ‘but’ looming. Unfortunately, I just wasn’t taken by Barbé’s singing voice – yes, it was tuneful, powerful and all very musical theatre, but it just wasn’t very Carole Kingy. Clearly then, it’s to the credit of both the material and the Barbé’s acting talent that I still managed to find her performance of You’ve Got a Friend to be genuinely touching.
Fortunately, when it came to the rest of the show, in the main the musical performances were excellent, with the portrayal of The Righteous Brothers singing You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling in particular reminding us all just what a truly awesome song this is, even it wasn’t actually one of Ms King’s.
In fact, the support cast were excellent, with Amy Ellen Richardson and Matthew Gonsolves as rival songwriters Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann particularly watchable, undoubtedly helped by being at the centre of most of the show’s comedy moments.
Did I enjoy the production? Absolutely. You can’t help but indulge in a huge game of ‘spot the classic song intro’ before loving the performances that follow. Take Good Care Of My Baby, Will You Love Me Tomorrow, Up On The Roof, On Broadway, We Gotta Get Out Of This Place… the hits, as they say, just keep coming – and there’s even room for a cameo or two of Neil Sedaka’s Oh Carol, a song probably best suited to receiving just the briefest of cameos…
If you can sit through this production without tapping your feet or jiggling around in your seat, then you need to go and rediscover your musical soul. What it so well demonstrates is that Carole King is one of those rare genuine musical geniuses who has brought real pleasure to so many fans. Now it’s time to dig out that old copy of Tapestry for yet another listen…
For more information and tickets, click here