The biggest surprise on seeing Beautiful is just how many Carole King songs you know. Sure, I’d heard of Tapestry, and It’s Too Late, You’ve Got a Friend and Beautiful itself, and I also knew she was one half of the iconic writing duo of Goffin and King. But what I didn’t count on was hearing classics from The Shirelle’s, The Drifter’s, Bobby Vee and Little Eva, then realising who wrote the songs in the first place. To be honest, as well as being an excellent show, it was an education.

Beautiful: The Carole King Musical — Birmingham Hippodrome — 30 August 2022

From humble beginnings, King (with Goffin lyrics) wrote for the best. The show is based predominantly in the recording studios within an almost claustrophobic set which works well. There is also no intent on hiding rear and side stages with performers often seen moving with props and scenery. This too is effective as along with the enclosed studios, it gives the feel of a busy environment outside. Then, with all the music played onstage by the performers themselves, you really do feel you are in the studio as history was made.

Beautiful is a Jukebox Musical and that description is perfect because it is like hit after hit on the jukebox, with a story added for good measure. It Might as Well Rain Until September, Some Kind of Wonderful, Take Good Care of My Baby, Will You Love Me Tomorrow, The Locomotion, One Fine Day, and Chains (Made more famous by the Beatles). All of these were showcased in Beautiful.

Beautiful: The Carole King Musical — Birmingham Hippodrome — 30 August 2022

Music aside, what Beautiful also offered was a well-written script from Douglas McGrath which moved at a good pace. Obviously, words and music to most songs came from King and Goffin, but there were also numbers from contemporary composers, Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann, who featured heavily as a side plot. And the education was there as well as I did not know much about them, but they also delivered fine songs, notably You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling, We Gotta Get Out of This Place and On Broadway.

All the performers were outstanding, including Molly-Grace Cutler (Carole King), Tom Milner (Gerry Goffin), Seren Sandham-Davies (Cynthia Weil), Jos Slovick (Barry Mann), Claire Greenway (Genie), Sorrel Jordan (Betty) and Garry Robson (Donnie Kirsner).

The director for Beautiful was Nikolai Foster with Choreography by Leah Hill and Musical Direction from Sarah Travis.

After the breakup of King’s marriage to Gerry Goffin, she embarked on a new career as a performer in her own right and (as depicted in the show) the rest is history. Such an impact this show made on me, I immediately went out and ordered Tapestry (as I did not have it in my music library.

Beautiful is still currently touring the UK until the end of November. I recommend it highly.

Beautiful: The Carole King Musical — Birmingham Hippodrome — 30 August 2022


Antony N Britt