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6th Jul, 2022

REVIEW - Reimagined Carole King musical at Malvern Theatres is both 'Beautiful' in name and performance

Malvern Editorial 4th May, 2022

MALVERN main house was buzzing in anticipation last night as the packed house waited for the world premiere of the revival and re-imagination of  ‘Beautiful’ the Carole King Musical to kick off.

The original show had mixed reactions but was generally favorable when it opened on Broadway back in 2013.

However I predict this new version from Leicester’s exciting ‘Curve’ producing theatre – will be bigger and run with stronger legs this time around.

The action starts from the minute you enter the auditorium. The back of the stage is split into a control room and a drum booth where action is already happening. In front of these, actors and musicians tune up, perform riffs and chat.

The stage is devoid of any curtaining front, back and above. Above it banks of lights gaze down like inquisitive eyes. I’ve never seen Malvern look so alive and so huge.

The lighting state changes and suddenly a grand piano is discovered, caught in an inverted pyramid of light from a spot way up in the Gods.

Everyone and everything else has gone like a conjuring trick and we are now in a giant concert hall circa 1971 where Carole King is introduced and we burst into spontaneous applause as she sings the first few bars of  ‘So Far Away’.

Whilst we are still clapping the grand piano moves off and is replaced by a small upright in the 1958 home where a 15-year-old Carole is writing and singing encouraged by her mother.

In the blink of an eye we are transported again to Queens College in New York City where she meets her husband to be Gerry Goffin.

Carole is a mother at 16 and along with her husband, becomes a sought-after songwriter by 17 and here we are barely a few minutes in – so fast does it all move.

Musically from Oh Carol to Natural Woman the hits just keep coming, after all she wrote and co-wrote over 120 of them – for a innumerable bevy of groups and solo artists until she turned the spotlight on herself.

‘Beautiful’ confines itself storywise to the earlier years of her life, up until a couple of years after her divorce from Goffin and her solo career as a performer heralds the next stage of her life .

Molly-Grace Cutler is simply sensational as Carole King, oozing charisma, credibility and vulnerability.

There are no passengers in this multi-talented cast – they all play a variety of instruments and multi-roll as pop groups, solo artists, recording technicians and a myriad of others whilst moving the scenery to boot.

Tom Milner makes for a moody and tortured soul as Gerry Goffin, Jos Slovick piles on the Jewish humour as songwriter Barry Mann, Seren Sanham-Davies is a blonde bundle of talent as Barry’s wife and writing partner Cynthia Well and Garry Robson captures the madness of the 1960s musical revolution as studio bigwig Donnie Kirshner.

Douglas McGrath has written a book with a huge voice that demands to be heard and Nikolai Foster has directed with extraordinary passion and originality. Frankie Bradshaw’s stripped back, ever moving set is a triumph as is Ben Cracknell’s lighting design.

Congratulations Royal Bath and Mayflower Theatres on this tour of Curve’s production and Malvern Theatres on another fabulous opening. This ‘Beautiful’ is beautiful both in name and practice.

Quite simply, a joyous show that is destined to become a classic this time around – catch it if you can get a ticket at Malvern or if  you’re unlucky then the Birmingham Hippodrome in September awaits, when it returns to the Midlands on its national tour.

Beautiful – The Carole King Musical runs at Malvern Theatres runs until Saturday, May 7. Click here for times, tickets and more information.

*****

Review by Euan Rose

Euan Rose Reviews

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