Beautiful is a captivating glimpse into part of American songwriter Carole King’s journey, from the time she composed her first song in the late 1950s up to her success with her debut solo album Tapestry in 1971. At just 16 years old, King showed signs of musical genius and originality, yet in her words was quite “square”.
Girls who looked like her and who were quirky by nature weren’t destined to perform songs at that time, nor compose them. Rather, they were encouraged to teach music. King broke the mould, following her heart with both music and her first love. At just 17 she married Gerry Goffin, and they had their first child at 18. Gerry wrote the lyrics, King the music, and together they just clicked, juggling parenthood and their work.
Beautiful has some touching moments, showing the pressures that being young, ambitious, married and parents put on King and Goffin. You can’t help but hold your breath when King – performed brilliantly and effortlessly by Molly-Grace Cutler – sings Will You Love Me Tomorrow. It also has many moments of humour, with the characters of Barry Mann, Cynthia Weil and King’s mother Eugenia providing particular highlights here, and you will find yourself smiling and toe-tapping almost unconsciously.
The musical features a tapestry – if you will – of hits written by both King and Goffin as a duo, as well as others by Mann and Weil. The entire cast could sing and move and was believable to boot, but Cutler deserves special mention as Carole King. Her velvety, country-style voice compares positively to Norah Jones; she commands attention, but not in any diva-like manner. Renditions of You’ve Got A Friend and (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman made for standout moments.
You were there in the moment throughout this fast-moving performance; we left Beautiful feeling joyful and wishing we could sing like King.
New Theatre, Cardiff, Tue 24 May. Running until Sat 28 May. Info: here
words REBECCA MANSFIELD FELLOWES
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