Theatre review: Beautiful at Aldwych Theatre
This jukebox jive skims the surface, says Bridget Galton.
This superior jukebox musical both entertains and frustrates at the way it skims over the complexity of its central character.
Based on the early life of singer-songwriter Carole King, its focus is her hugely productive decade in Don Kirshner’s New York hit factory, writing pop songs with husband Gerry Goffin for The Drifters, Bobby Vee, and The Shirelles.
On Derek McLane’s industrial-style set the joint is humming with musicians and writers turning out hummable teen hits: Up on the Roof, Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow, The Loco-Motion, Take Good Care of My Baby, and by their friendly rivals Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, You’ve Lost that Lovin’ Feelin’.
Enjoyably staged with loving attention to 60s costumes and dance, it’s underpinned by the terminally dowdy King’s yearning for a quiet family life in the suburbs with Goffin.
You may also want to watch:
Just as these gorgeously trite tunes are commercially and artistically overtaken by writers like Dylan and The Beatles, the pain of Goffin’s mental health issues and infidelities lead to King’s Grammy-grabbing 1971 break-up album Tapestry.
It’s truly uplifting to see Katie Brayben’s hard-working sensible Carole step into the limelight and find her voice in these soulful folk tunes You’ve Got A Friend, It’s Too Late, and You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman.
- 1 Emirates pop-up Covid-19 vaccine clinic opens for a second time
- 2 Covid-19 cases start to drop off in Islington
- 3 Arsenal start pre-season with win over Chelsea but dealt blow with Jordan Nobbs injury
- 4 Lidl opens! First shoppers enjoy Finsbury Park supermarket
- 5 Key road closed: Hackney and Islington travel news July 31 - August 6
- 6 Tube strike suspended to allow for further talks
- 7 Escape in Islington this weekend: Lovely food and great new shows
- 8 From Shoreditch to Las Vegas: New bingo hall for Hackney
- 9 Hundreds gather for Tony Eastlake funeral in Islington
- 10 Historic Archway site set for major housing development after land sale
Their message of female self expression and self-determination defined a decade, but despite Douglas McGrath’s witty book and good support from Glynis Barber as King’s acerbic Jewish mum, the woman who wrote them remains essentially unexplored. The real King had four husbands and combined career with teen motherhood, but you get few of her struggles or imperfections. And as with all jukebox musicals, the songs aren’t woven into the fabric of the show but tend to halt the action for another showstopper.
Rating: 4/5 stars