I was going to name this blog post, So Very Beautiful. But when a word is already perfect additional adjectives muddy the waters.
The same can be said of Beautiful – The Carole King Musical which has just started previews in London. Never did a word, a title, a song, more aptly describe the experience you are going to have at the Aldwych Theatre. Everything about this story, this snapshot of life, this celebration of living, learning, loving and making music – the thing its heroine was born to do - is beautiful. Beautiful too are the friendships, the challenges, the humour and the fun which is had on the stage, in the auditorium and no doubt back stage.
I don’t write blogs about the arts to be a critic. I can’t, if I still have ideas of returning to a performing career. I write arts commentary – what I like to call arts-life crossover stories. And I don’t write about a production if I don’t think it’s good.
Well, this new London production - privileged, as I was, to attend the final dress - is an arts-life crossover story if ever there was one. It is a jukebox musical in that it tells the truth about the lives of the musicians and performers who crossed paths with Carole King and Gerry Goffin when they began to collaborate for a long series of hits. But it is more.
Like Jersey Boys (a favourite of mine as you can see from earlier posts) this retrospective gets well below the skin. The excellent book for Beautiful by Douglas McGrath, combined with inspired direction by Marc Bruni and thoroughly entertaining choreography by Josh Prince, give audiences a real chance to understand the journey which made Carole King the person she is, to appreciate the nuances of what making music was all about in the 60s and 70s, and to feel the complexities which love in the new age threw up for people when the rule book was no longer safe and reliable.
Beyond that Beautiful is slick, witty, finely designed and costumed, extremely well cast and delivered (without exception), that you will have so much fun you will be bopping not just the night you see it but all through the next day while reaching for Spotify because your vinyl copy of Tapestry is in a box in Australia somewhere. As I said on FB to mates, if you don’t enjoy Beautiful you must be dead, or so boring that you might as well be dead.
I was so moved and satisfied by this engaging theatrical experience that I’m already planning to see it again. I’m ridiculously jealous of the cast and creative team who are working on it – and make no mistake, a star is born in Katie Brayben playing Carole... superbly companioned by Alan Morrissey, Lorna Want, Ian McIntosh, Gary Trainor and Glynis Barber (playing Goffin, Cynthia Weil, Barry Mann, Donnie Kirshner and Genie Klein respectively). I can’t stop singing “you’ve got to get up every morning with a smile on your face and show the world all the love in your heart...”. And I’m so keen to get back to the soundtrack - to which I’m happy I still remember the words, even though it’s been years - that this is the shortest blog I’ve ever written.
What more can I say. Beautiful speaks for itself.