Thursday, 26 February 2015

Review: Beautiful - The Carole King Musical at the Aldwych Theatre

Beautiful - The Carole King Musical 
Aldwych Theatre
Reviewed on Wednesday 25th February 2015

Following Carole King's long journey from school girl to music icon, Beautiful is the latest Broadway musical to transfer to London's West End. It's hard to pinpoint the magical ingredient of King's music; it is an absolute joy to hear her biggest hits performed by a tremendously talented British company.

Although the show glances into King's difficult relationship with her husband and song-writing partner Gerry Goffin, Beautiful's storyline is fairly gentle. The show doesn't pretend to be anything it's not, it has heart and I found it easy to get behind King's journey to stardom.

It isn't every day you witness a career defining performance like the one Katie Brayben gives in Beautiful. Brayben's portrayal of King is masterful; it's rare to see such fresh, raw talent on a West End stage. Not only does Brayben excel during musical numbers, performing King's music to perfection, but she also brings truthfulness and compassion to the text.

Beautiful features one of the strongest supporting casts and ensembles in the West End, I love that so many are given their moment to shine. Lorna Want and Ian McIntosh impress as song-writing duo Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil who become friends (as well as rivals) with King and Goffin.

Various cast members pop up throughout in different roles, stealing scenes and dazzling during numbers. Vocals are top notch whilst the staging is spot on, with stand out performances coming from Vivien Carter, Ed Currie, Danielle Steers, Dylan Turner and Joanna Woodward. The entire cast really are fantastic.

Josh Prince's choreography works a treat whilst Derek McLane's design brings a touch of Broadway glamour to the West End. Marc Bruni's production moves swiftly. Scenes are structured nicely with time moving along very quickly at certain points throughout the show, preventing the musical from dragging. The piece comes into its own during the final half hour, I found myself fully behind King as Brayben belted out '(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman', which is the evening's highlight. 

Personally I think jukebox musicals can be treated unfairly, many like to write them off without bothering to give them a chance. I don't mind if a show is brand new, adapted from a film/novel or constructed around pre-existing music - a good show is a good show, and Beautiful provides a glorious evening's entertainment. 

Reviewed by Andrew Tomlins (Editor)

Beautiful - The Carole King Musical is currently booking at the Aldwych Theatre to 13th June 2015. Please visit for information and tickets.

Photo Credit: Brinkhoff Moegenburg

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