Carole King is the musical talent behind many 60s and 70s songs who went on to become a household name in her own right with her Tapestry album.
Beautiful: The Carole King Musical tells her story from her beginning as a 15-year-old songwriter to performing at Carnegie Hall following multiple Grammy wins for the album.
She is hired by Atlantic Records to write songs for bands of the time like The Shirelles, The Drifters and The Monkees. A chance run-in with an older boy at school Gerry Goffin, a writer, leads to the pair teaming up to write songs, him on lyrics and her on melody. They churn out hits such as You Make Me Feel Like a (Natural Woman), Will You Still Love Me and The Locomotion and when she falls pregnant he proposes.
They befriend rival songwriting couple Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann, who wrote On Broadway for the Drifters, We Gotta Get Out Of This Place for The Animals and Unchained Melody for the Righteous Brothers.
When Gerry has an affair, and ultimately a breakdown, the couple finally move to the suburbs as Carole has always wanted. But a restless and unhappy Gerry has an affair with a performer in the city, and Carole leaves him. She decides to move to California, and realises she is ready to record an album of songs she has written for herself.
The musical glosses over the unpleasant moments in Carole’s life, and is full of funny moments; self-deprecating humour from Carole, quick quips from Cynthia and Barry’s character is a melodramatic hypochondriac hopelessly in love with Cynthia. The music performances throughout are uplifting and the sheer volume of hits that feature in the story is fascinating in itself. Gerry is almost a panto-level villain (the audience audibly tutted when he came crawling back into Carole’s life late in the show). Throughout the show characters compliment Carole effusively, who until she discovers Gerry’s second infidelity, is humble and content to live in the suburbs and write the music for other stars to sing. When she embraces her talents and decides to record and release the Tapestry album, it’s a satisfying ending for the audience who have seen her star potential from the outset. Bronté Barbé is excellent as Carole and her performance of Beautiful at the end of the show is particularly powerful and breathtaking. This is a show for fans of Carole young and old, and particularly those who may be unaware that Carole is the talent behind many of their favourite hits.
Beautiful: The Carole King Musical is at the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre until 20 January. Book tickets here.
By Róisín Healy
Inform | Inspire | Indulge