Friday, 21 February 2020

REVIEW: Beautiful: The Carole King Musical at the New Victoria Theatre, Woking


It’s hard to over-state the importance of Carole King on the music industry. Over a thousand artists have covered or released her songs from The Shirelles and The Drifters to Celine Dion and Aretha Franklin. As a solo artist King has had seven Top 10 albums and has recorded some of the most well-known songs in pop history. Beautiful: The Carole King Musical follows King (Daisy Wood-Davis) as she writes, falls in love and soars to great musical heights.

The overture starts and we tumble through some of the most iconic King masterpieces in a brash medley, ending with Wood-Davis sat at a grand piano centre stage about to preform to Carnegie Hall on 18th June 1971. The production then throws us back into the midst of 1950s America to watch Kings rise to stardom.

Wood-Davis is elegant in her portrayal of King; with wonderful vocals and a great portrayal of the southern twang that King is known for. Gerry Goffin is played brilliantly by Adam Gillian. With appropriate swagger he pulls off both the high-school jock and the budding playwright and lyricist with a voice to match that of Wood-Davis. His emotions sometimes seem to come from nowhere with some less nuanced choices than the other principal cast.

King and Goffins best friends and contemporaries, Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann are portrayed by Laura Baldwin and Cameron Sharp. I must admit to being something of a ‘fan’ of Ms Baldwin, having seen her on stage more times than most actresses, often unintentionally. In this production she does not disappoint. Storming into the story with sass and attitude she is instantly lovable as she speaks her mind and has vocal agility and tone that is always a joy to hear. Sharp’s Mann is suitably energetic and comedic as his love with Weil is played out as honestly as King and Goffins.

The ensemble cast of this show are utilised extensively to play The Drifter, The Righteous Brothers and various other performers and every single one of them executes what must be a difficult track effortlessly and should be commended.

Andrew Corcoran leads the eight-piece band and works tirelessly at the keys. Every time a character is playing on stage, Corcoran is bringing their (sometimes questionable) miming to life. As a pianist myself, I know that Kings music is a joy to play, and Corcoran and the band breathe life into Jason Howland and Steve Sidwell’s arrangements.

The technical and creatives have almost perfected this show, with flashes of quick-changes and a versatile set but some lighting lets the actors down by leaving them in shadow. 

The principal cast need to get into their stride sooner; by the time we get to You’ve Got a Friend in Act 2 they really get into their stride, enveloping in harmony.

All in all, Kings music is matched with a wonderful cast which means we all leave singing those timeless songs over and over.

Review by Max Topliss

Rating: ★★★★

Price of Ticket: £57 (Stalls)
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