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Quick Change Reviews: Beautiful - The Carole King Musical (Curve)

★★★★★


Whenever I hear ‘I Feel The Earth Move’, I know that my boyfriend is making a dinner that involves both cooking, and drinking, red wine. It’s usually a Friday evening. The song floats around the house flirting with delicious aromas that quickly envelop the two of us in the kitchen.


The opening keys of ‘Home Again’ and ‘So Far Away’ soundtrack catch ups around cluttered dinner tables with those we hold near and dear. And, more than once I have reached over a map to turn up the volume to ‘Beautiful’ whilst in the passenger seat on a long drive.


These memories and connections that I carry in are uniquely mine, but not mine solely. Carole King’s Tapestry is a defining record that provides a comforting place to land for many.


Photography by Ellie Kurttz


Curve’s production of Beautiful – The Carole King Musical; with its soft humour, warm tones and natural talent, imprints on the heart. Already, it's a firm favourite.


Molly-Grace Cutler’s Carole King is kind-hearted and patient. We are first introduced as she prepares to play at the Carnegie Hall, before going back in time to her twee teenage-hood. Having sold her first song, she meets her high-school sweetheart, Gerry Goffin (Tom Milner) and whilst expecting their first child, gets married at the age of 17.


It is in music mogul, Don Kirshner’s (Garry Robson) studio that Carole and Gerry form their chart-topping partnership. Here, they also develop a highly competitive but loving relationship with fellow song-writing duo, Barry Mann (Jos Slovick) and Cynthia Weil (Seren Sandham-Davies).


As the years pass by, marked by changes in fashion styles and statement headwear, the four become hit-makers, dream-chasers and ground-shakers.


Together, they embody New York spirit in this unplugged, stripped back production.


A bubbly and light book by Douglas McGrath plays out with innocence and ease by the leads. Cutler embodies King’s pure nature with just the right measure of a quick-witted NY spirit and her raspy, signature tone.


Sandham-Davies confidently steps into the role of bright-eyed lyricist, Cynthia, and is gleeful to watch. Whilst Slovick’s Barry provides uplifting humour about everything from cat dandruff to hypochondria.


Their relationships evolve in time with the turbulence of the music industry. With the changing tides, their personal lives too have moments of joy, soul, and resistance. We learn the stories that shape the music and how the music shaped them as individuals.


Performed under direction from the unmistakable Nikolai Foster, the actor-musician set up makes this even more poignant, adding depth to the characters and the songs that take new dimension. The show is pierced together by a hands-on cast and it adds a charming informality to the production, as though you are a fly on the wall watching history unfold.


Tom Milner’s portrayal of a dissatisfied and disgruntled Gerry is powerful as he battles his demons and sacrifices his family. The performance of ‘Up On The Roof’ is a particularly heart-in-mouth moment elevated by elegant staging and brilliant lighting.


Photography by Ellie Kurttz


Ben Cracknell is responsible for the golden glow cast over the show. The lighting is irresistibly glorious. It captures the humble stardom that Carole shines.


The stripped back set does all that it intends to: houses stellar performances. A door at the back leads way for dazzling performances of musical numbers that stand the test of time. Like an episode of Stars In Their Eyes, out of the smoke come musical legends through the eras.


We are treated to classic, feel-good records including: ‘Will You Love Me Tomorrow’ dazzlingly performed by The Shirelles, Little Eva’s sugar-topped performance of ‘The Loco-Motion’ (with the addition of roller-skates) and a show-stopping rendition of ‘On Broadway’ performed by The Drifters.


Photography by Ellie Kurttz


The second half sees Carole come into her own as a performer, and Cutler rises to the challenge.


An emotively tender ‘You’ve Got A Friend’ rolls into a charged rendition of ‘(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman’ before ‘Beautiful’ brings the story full-circle.

Sat in a window-seat with her cat, Carole King weaved a tapestry of a record that pulled together the her colourful and beautiful life. With thanks to Curve’s new production, generations get to enjoy and embrace the music of a rare treasure of a songwriter and singer.


Photography by Ellie Kurttz



Beautiful - The Carole King Musical is co-produced by Curve, and partners at Bath Theatre royal and Southampton Mayflower.