Celebrating its second birthday, the West End’s tale of Carole King’s rise to stardom is truly beautiful.
Two years since it opened at London’s Aldwych Theatre, and marking the 75th birthday of its protagonist Carole King, Beautiful reigns even stronger than before. Led by a stunning performance by Cassidy Janson as King, the production portrays her journey from a difficult upbringing in Brooklyn to the release of her iconic Tapestry debut, with a sensitive balance of humour and heartbreak.
Underpinned by a defining soundtrack, both songs written by King during her collaboration with Gerry Goffin and her later solo material, Beautiful circumvents the twee to deliver a genuine celebration of music. Even as performances of classics such as Some Kind Of Wonderful and Up On The Roof are deliberately overplayed by on-point portrayals of The Drifters, the humour supports the narrative of King emerging as a standalone artist.
So good is the soundtrack that audience members are unable to contain the words, murmuring along with the lyrics under their breath. Not least as the production reaches it’s concluding numbers; the end of King’s troublesome navigation through life and the start of her true empowerment. It’s a theme that runs throughout the show, brilliantly personified by Lorna Want as best-friend and songwriting rival, Cynthia Weil.
Dealing well with darker issues, the production allows Janson to portray the inner resilience of King; rarely held hostage by negative emotion or her self-confessed naivety. It is in fact her likability emanating from the stage that drives the production forward, demonstrating a small-town charm in an otherwise fast-paced industry. It’s a musical coming-of-age tale, surrounded by the trials and tribulations of life.
The set-design carries the contradiction between the glitz and glamour of show-business and the rustic structures behind closed doors. It lives with the performances, physically gliding around to create new spaces. The switch from one to the other is notably slick and impressively seamless, with the occasional clever quirk that’s both vastly entertaining and practical.
Far from garish, there’s a gritty texture running through all elements of the production, mirroring the circumstances that lead King to her ultimate success. Beautiful is a celebration of music, and a perfect representation of both the euphoria and the perils of creativity.
Tickets for Beautiful: The Carole King Musical are available now through Ticketmaster.co.uk.