Thoughts on Beautiful – the Carole King Musical

What: Beautiful – the Carole King Musical
Where: Her Majesty’s Theatre, Melbourne

Performances run until 3 June, 2018
For more information, please visit beautifulmusical.com.au

 

I imagine it makes it even more difficult from the writer’s perspective, having to stay true to the original story, while making sure those like me who have no real idea or back story on the person’s life understand everything too. Even this review requires the knowledge that you have some idea what Beautiful is about.

It’s difficult not to compare Beautiful – the Carole King Musical to Dream Lover – the Bobby Darin Musical (also currently playing in Melbourne). Although their lives were very different, I feel like both shows are better suited to those born in the same generation or era the musicals are set. It’s not that the show is difficult to follow or that the songs aren’t recognisable, it’s simply you will probably get more out of it and understand the period-driven in-jokes that went over my young head. I overheard a woman behind me say something similar to her husband, and she was right. It’s not like when the Righteous Brothers sing You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling, for example, they bluntly tell you the performer who is singing. It takes some prior knowledge from the audience member.

Regardless, it’s unbelievable how many recognisable songs Carole King and her husband, Gerry Goffin (as played by Josh Piterman) wrote, especially as many of those have stood the test of time being just as memorable today. I highly suggest you check out Beautiful – A Tribute to Carole King CD, available to purchase at the merchandise stands, featuring covers by Daryl Braithwaite, Guy Sebastian, Dami Im, Tina Arena and more.

I especially enjoyed the 1650 Broadway Medley as sung by the ensemble (though I’m unsure of who all the artists were meant to be – loved the cameo by Bobby Darin though). I’ve always been a fan of group numbers and being one of the earlier songs, it was a great number to help kick off the show and gave you a sense of excitement that you’re in for a good show. In comparison, (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman is one of the last songs and is truly a magical, special moment few will forget. Deliberate or not, I think it’s very clever writing to start and end on such highs.

I felt like Act 1 dragged a little. I was constantly waiting for something to happen – a conflict, some drama, some something that warrants a musical being made based on her life. And although it did happen, it wasn’t until Act 2. I can’t help compare to Bobby Darin’s you-couldn’t-make-this-life-up-if-you-tried. Carole lived a pretty average life in retrospect, that is to say, I’m only going off what the musical covers, roughly the first thirty years of her life. Carole, now 76, I’m sure has many more stories to share.

Playing Carole the night I went was first understudy Stefanie Caccamo. I can’t speak for Esther Hannaford (who plays Carole King when her understudies don’t step in); but her voice, her delivery, her emotional connection to the role and songs was just awe-inspiring and I feel Stefanie is one to watch.

It’s nice too to see a show that doesn’t heavily rely on “star” power. All the equally multi-talented performers hold their own in their respected roles. It’s the strength of the cast that carries the show and makes it so wonderful. I enjoyed the chemistry between the leads, especially between sharp-talking, sassy Cynthia Well (Lucy Maunder) and the adorably, witty Barry Mann (Mat Verevis). There was plenty of humour between them, which worked well. And you certainly feel the marital frustrations between Carole and Gerry as the musical goes on. Lucy, on a side note, as Cynthia, reminded me of actress Jane Krakowski.

Sets are minimal but the stage is well used – common for a performance-based musical, as I like to call it, instead of a more theatrical show with large dance numbers and sets. The transitions between scenes are also fast and seamless. Costumes too are reminiscent of the era and perfectly designed for each character. Carole’s opening/finale dress is one of the most beautiful costumes I’ve ever seen, and now want to find something similar.

The musical ends with a big group sing-along, with the audience encouraged to get up off their feet and dance. All in all, Beautiful – the Carole King Musical is a very well put together musical that ultimately relies on prior knowledge to be amongst your musical favourites.

Tickets courtesy of Bridges PR

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