The fabulous team at Made at Curve have once again come together to put a fresh new spin on a musical favourite, this time alongside Theatre Royal Bath Productions and the Mayflower Theatre, Southampton. Beautiful the Musical takes audiences on a trip down memory lane and shows the journey by which Rock and Roll Hall of Fame star Carole King went from a 16 year old on her mother’s piano to a chart topping sell out performer at New York’s Carnegie Hall. King’s rise to fame see’s her marry writing partner Gerry Goffin and form a close yet competitive friendship with fellow songwriters Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil. Between them, they’re responsible for some of the greatest hits of all time. Put all those into a musical and you’re onto a winner.
One thing’s for certain, Molly-Grace Cutler is a star. It’s evident from very early on in the production that we’re in very safe hands with Molly playing the titular role of legend Carole King. She fits into this role impeccably well demonstrating an exceptional stage presence as she moves between musician, vocalist and actor seamlessly. The ease with which Cutler portrays her role is mighty impressive and she is a complete joy to watch. Other stand outs were Jos Slovick who was endearing and vocally flawless as Barry and Garry Robson as the witty and loveable Donnie Kirshner.
It goes without saying that the music is the real pull of this show and it certainly does not disappoint in this production. The cast on stage are also the orchestra, playing all their own instruments whilst performing, and it makes for quite the spectacle. Although at times it’s a little off-putting to watch someone grab a trombone mid sentence, on the whole this element definitely adds an interesting dimension to the piece and feels fitting given the setting. The musical numbers are undeniably brilliant, brimming with energy and enthusiasm which is infectious. There is an obvious buzz amongst the audience as cheers erupt after the most loved numbers and patrons bite their tongues in an attempt not to sing along, although not always successfully!
However, as entertaining as it is, this production is not without its hiccups. Whilst the cast are truly phenomenal when it comes to the musical numbers, there was a little left to be desired when it came to the acting at times. I felt the more poignant, hard hitting moments in the production fell somewhat flat and moments that were written to punch you in the stomach and create the brilliant ebbs and flows of theatre that we know and love, simply lacked oomph. It’s clear a huge amount of energy has gone towards the big production numbers, but unfortunately I felt the storyline suffered.
The set is basic but effective – the recording studio providing the backdrop throughout the production with a few small props wheeled on and off to relocate the action to a holiday let in Vermont or the local school. This worked well for the most part but being able to glimpse into the wings through large gaps downstage was distracting at times. I wish the set utilised the entirety of the stage and perhaps showed some more versatility and interest to add to the narrative. The movement of the piano was brilliant but that was about as exciting as it got. There were moments that screamed out loud for a video projection – with film crews and cameras on stage – but this was unfortunately not utilised. A real shame as this would have added an extra dynamic that I felt was missing.
On the whole, this new production of Beautiful is certain to get heads bobbing and toes tapping as the audience is taken on a gorgeous journey back in time. With so many chart-topping classics littered throughout the production and performed so well, it’s impossible not to leave feeling thoroughly uplifted. It’s the escapism we all need right now. Carole King’s story is a brilliant example of the highs and lows of show business, motherhood and love. From humble beginnings to the bright lights of Carnegie Hall, Beautiful the Musical takes the audience on a brilliant, reminiscent and heartwarming journey. Carole King fans, 60s music fans and well anyone that loves to boogie will love this show.
Beautiful is at Curve Leicester until Saturday 12th March before embarking on its UK Tour. For info and tickets click here.
*Production Images by Ellie Kurttz
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