TO say that this show only scratches the surface of the life and work of composer/singer Carole King would be putting it mildly.
With more than 100 pop songs that found their way into the charts and 25 solo albums, many written for some of the top musical artists to emerge in the later part of the 20th century , to chose from, it’s not surprising that some notable performers and personalities found themselves missing from the characters presented in this musical. James Taylor, with whom Carole King so often collaborated, gets short shrift, and there is no mention of the three husbands who followed Gerry Goffin, her first husband and lyricists on dozens of hit numbers during their ten year marriage.
Douglas McGrath, who wrote the book for this rather romanticised look at Carole King’s life and work, concentrated on that period from her breakthrough with Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow, when she was just 17 years of age, to the break up of the marriage with Goffin, ending that wonderful partnership as lyricist and composer, with Carole bursting out as a singer as well as composer.
Even with those restrictions on the storyline there was little time to expand the characters, with 28 songs and 35 scenes to accommodate in a production that runs an hour and a half including an interval. But with hit numbers to accommodate, composed for The Shirelles, The Drifters, Little Eva, The Righteous Brothers and Neil Sedaka, all brought realistically to life by a company who also provided their own musical backing, there was little time for talk.
In spite of this verbal shortage of ammunition Molly-Grace Cutler (Carole King), Tom Milner (Gerry Goffin), Seren Sandham-Davies (Cynthia Weil) and Jos Slovick (Barry Mann), created four believable characters at the heart of the story. Molly-Grace also beautifully captured Carole King’s style of vocal delivery in numbers like It Might as Well Rain Until September, Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow, and in the duet of Take Good Care of My Baby with Tom Milner.
When given the opportunity Seren and Jos also were ready, willing and able to show off vocal skills, in He’s Sure the Boy I Love and Walking in the Rain, skills that matched their instrumentals talents playing trumpet and guitar respectively.
Director Nikolai Foster has the production tied up as tight as a watch-spring and with musical arrangements fitting perfectly into the period style of the songs. Lighting, sound and the backstage teams are all equally professional in their work in this smooth polished presentation.
All you have to ask yourself is “Do I enjoy going down memory lane to recall numbers like Up on the Roof and the Locomotion. And if the answer is yes, dive in. You may not discover a great deal about Carole King the woman, but you will love the music on offer.
Images by Ellie Kurttz
Molly-Grace Cutler as Carole King with Naomi Alade, Louise Francis and Amena El-Kindy as The Shirelles in Beautiful The Carole King Musical
Seren Sandham-Davies as Cynthia Weil and Jos Slovick as Barry Mann in Beautiful The Carole King Musical