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Culture, Theatre

Standing Ovation for Beautiful: The Carole King Musical

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We were lucky enough to be invited to the New Theatre last night, to see the first night of this fabulous show, which debuted on Broadway in 2014 and is currently touring the UK. Some people can be sniffy about the concept of a jukebox musical, but when the music is this good, what's your problem? So good, in fact, that a standing ovation at the finale turned into a communal bop to the encore, I Feel The Earth Move, as no-one in the audience could sit down: we all wanted to be part of event.

Any musical rests on the cast, and this group of talented singers and musicians hit on every note. Adorably klutzy, unquestionably as lovable as the real King, Molly Grace Cutler took us on the journey from Brooklyn to New York and on to California; from nice Jewish girl, Carol Klein, to the multiple Grammy award-winning singer-songwriter, Carole King. She was joined by an angsty, handsome Tom Milner as Goffin, whose struggles with mental health were sensitively contextualised within the production. Equally entertaining were the pair's 'friendly rivals' in songwriting: Jos Slovick as hypochondriac lothario Barry Mann and – positively bursting with chutzpah – Seren Sandham Davies as Cynthia Weil.

I'm going to admit to tears in my eyes, from the first notes of So Far Away which opens the show, right up until the affirmative last chords of (You Make Me Feel Like) a Natural Woman. If you're a fan of King; if you want a fantastic night out; if November has left you feeling in need of some feelgood; or simply if you love great music, hurry to the New Theatre before 26 November.

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We are willing to bet that everyone is a fan of Carole King, even if they don’t know it. Whether you’ve sobbed to Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow, hummed along with Gilmore Girls* theme (Where You Lead, I Will Follow) or even followed every step of The Loco-Motion, her music has influenced across the decades. Every single track on her 1971 landmark album, Tapestry, is a banger and it is this album which forms the songbook of Beautiful. The show tells the story of King’s remarkable rise from singer/songwriter to one of the music industry’s all-time greats.

Beautiful, a co-production for Curve Theatre, Royal Bath Productions and Mayflower Theatre Southampton, stars Molly-Grace Cutler as Carole King. She describes King as “an incredible music icon. She’s very driven and very determined, and you get to see how resilient she is as her story goes on” And on taking on the role of a living icon? “I’m very happy that I’m getting to play her and her music. The big challenge is people will inevitably compare you to her as well as other people who have played the role before. It’s about doing your own thing whilst also paying respect to the people before along with Carole herself.”

Tom Milner takes the role of Gerry Goffin, King’s first husband and co-writer. He adds, “Gerry Goffin is her first husband and songwriting partner. In the show he’s quite chaotic, he’s always striving for more and he eventually suffers a massive breakdown. I’d heard of Goffin and King’s music but I didn’t realise how much they wrote and how much they did for the industry. I also didn’t know about him as a person. He was always chasing happiness and the next big thing, which set him on a downward spiral.”

With such an incredible songbook to choose from, we wanted to know if Molly-Grace had a favourite to perform? “I’d have to say (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman because it’s such an honest, emotional song about her relationship with Gerry.” And Tom? “There’s a song I do with the cast called Pleasant Valley Sunday and it’s a great rocking, up-tempo song.”

And the best thing about touring? For Molly-Grace, “it’s about getting to share some incredible music with people as well as getting to share Carole’s story. A lot of people don’t know enough about her so it’s nice to show what she went through and how much she’s achieved.” Tom adds, “it’s the kind of show everyone needs right now. We’ve all been through the pandemic and hard times and this show has such a feel-good factor. When we do the finale everyone is dancing, singing, clapping and smiling. For us to take it round the country and bring people so much joy is just amazing.”

Beautiful, The Carole King Musical will be at New Theatre Oxford November 22nd – November 26th 2022.

For tickets and further information, visit atgtickets.com

Featuring countless classics such as You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman, Take Good Care of my Baby, You’ve Got a Friend, Up on the Roof, Locomotion and You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling, Beautiful – The Carole King Musical is written by Douglas McGrath, with songs by Carole King, Gerry Goffin, Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil.

Beautiful – The Carole King Musical was originally produced on Broadway and in London by Paul Blake, SONY/ATV Music Publishing and Mike Bosner.

*and yes, Sophie from the music store is played by Carole King herself

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