There can be no better way to blow away the autumn blues than a trip to the theatre. Even if you see something average it feels good to be out enjoying a live performance, especially when ‘real life’ is feeling a bit dark and depressing. So last night, with no expectations I headed over in the wind and rain to The Liverpool Empire to see Beautiful; The Carole King Musical. Beautiful debuted on Broadway almost 20 years ago and yet I knew almost nothing about it.
I didn’t know anyone that had seen the show before. I knew the name but didn’t feel aware of her music or her story so I was an absolute blank canvas.
It was fantastic. I already know it’s a musical that I will see again and again.
The multi award winning show begins and ends at New York’s Carnegie Hall which Carole played following her 1971 album Tapestry and in-between takes us on the journey that got her there focusing primarily on her songwriting partnership with her first husband, Gerry Goffin.
Molly-Grace Cutler blew me away in the lead role. She has an excellent voice and from what I’ve read, seems to emulate Kings quirks without over acting or making anything seem forced. Supported by a very able cast the songs came hit after hit and I felt transported to the 60’s era by the simple set and stunning costumes- who doesn’t LOVE a dark denim bellbottom and floaty cheesecloth top?!
The story quickly sees us meeting with mogul Don Kirshner (Garry Robson brilliantly cast) and Kings teenage achievements seem effortless as she crafts thoughtful pop songs at a time when, the charts were full of the catchy yakety-yak, stupid cupids and less emotional tunes.
I was surprised to hear the number of hits King was responsible for which transport me back to my parents record collection that were penned by King and Goffin. They are used to great effect to move us through Carole’s early career and marriage; Some Kind of Wonderful marks the discovery that she’s pregnant and Up on the Roof makes reference to Goffin’s turbulent childhood. The Dirty Dancing hit ‘Will You Love Me Tomorrow?’ explores King’s fears of her husband’s infidelity; One Fine Day presents his eventual affair from both women’s perspective.
The set and production both have a free and easy feel. The audience first hear songs as Carole pens them in a writing booth or within Donnie Kirshners studio and then as a more polished performance from the groups who recorded them.
Something that really struck me in the performance was Carole’s relationship with her mother- ably played by Claire Greenway. Genie seemingly disagreed with some of Carole’s decisions both in terms of her career and relationship but the show portrays her as proud, loving and supportive which, enables Carole to chase her dreams and build her career. As a perimenopausal emotional wreck of a mum myself, I found this a really beautiful element.
Having read the programme it is clear that Carole Kings life could never be explored properly in a stage show of under two hours so, if you are a huge Carole King fan who knows her work and her life back to front, it might feel a bit surface level for you. Large aspects of her life are ignored or glossed over such as the relationship with her father and her brother as well as the complexity of her relationship with Gerry Goffin but; as a show as opposed to an in-depth autobiography it works beautifully. The standing ovation the cast received at the end was well deserved and I left feeling sad it was over so soon but ultimately uplifted and definitely ready to face another day.
Karen Beddow founded Mini Travellers in 2014 while doing what she loves most...going on holiday!
Mini Travellers is for parents looking for holiday ideas, destination reviews, days out and things to do with the kids. We also have family travel tips, activity ideas and all other things family holiday related. Take a look at some of our latest reviews for holidays and day trips in the UK.