My face ached from smiling from the opening moments to the triumphant finale. Of course it did, because this show is packed with one hit after another, from Carole King’s early hit making partnership with Gerry Goffin to her incredible solo triumph that started with the recording and release of the iconic album Tapestry.

Beautiful – tour – 2022 Production photos taken on the 28th February 2022, at Curve Theatre Leicester, Directed by Nikolai Foster

But as if that feast of premiere league pop was not enough, this show is well deserving of the title “Beautiful”.

Let me start with foundations of this production; the set is brilliantly conceived and executed, it works on every level, the lighting is equally impressive and the costumes are lavish when needed and simplistic but accurate for period when not. And the conceit of allowing the audience to gaze upward into the fly tower above the stage is magical, an open view of that magic behind all of the above.

King’s story is revealed to be one of highs and lows, the rise to fame and early love followed by romantic betrayal and doubt. There’s a sadness and a joy that is not only realised in the performance of those brilliant songs but also in the excellently portrayed drama which sits in intamte contrast to to the stunningly performed and choreographed set pieces that punctuate the story.

This production uses the fashionable, but not always successful, format of using actor-musicians. Here the success is achieved by using a cast of exceptional young talent. There is not a body on that stage who cannot sing, dance, act and play with skill at least one if not more instruments. The sounds they create are impressive, they capture the music of the time with ease and also the voices of those hit making acts.

It’s a huge cast too, the stage is packed at times but the staging, direction and choreography are so finely honed that there is never a sense of clutter or unnecessary excess, Nikolai Foster, director, has made very sure of that. And of that cast, well there are too many great performances to name them all, but had I the space and the luxury of awarding individual stars the number would be astronomical for sure, these kids, and yes for the most part they are very young, can sing, dance, play and act – quadruple threats!

It would of course be unfair not to mention a few. Tom Milner plays the difficult Gerry Goffin with believable charm and charisma and equally nails the eventual mental breakdown, and through all uses his stunning voice. Seren Sandham-Davies makes her entrance and within minutes blew us away with a powerhouse voice and a cookie representation of lyricist Cynthia Weil, and Jos Slovick has all the vulnerable charm of the hypochondriac composer Barry Mann and perhaps the finest singing voice on that stage. That is of course excepting the lead and the star.

Molly-Grace Cutler pulls off playing Carole King with an ease and grace. She captures the fragility of King as she rises to fame and fortune, as she discovers her lover, husband and creative partner’s infidelity and her reluctance to leave behind the role of songwriter to finally taking her place in pop history as performer. And she does this without ever resorting to a slavish impersonation of King. Of course the songs are delivered as we would want them to be, recognisable in their arrangements and in her phrasing, but there is something of her own

in this performance and that is definitely what makes it special.

This is musical theatre at its very best, unmissable pop magic seamlessly built into moving drama.

Andrew Kay

29 March

Theatre Royal Brighton

Rating: ★★★★★

Leave a Comment

Related Articles