Review: A loving tribute to an unassuming genius on Northampton stage

Anna Brosnan reviews Beautiful - The Carole King Musical at the Royal & Derngate, Northampton

Thursday, 6th February 2020, 9:39 am
Updated Thursday, 6th February 2020, 9:40 am
Daisy Wood-Davis as Carole King. Picture: Helen Maybanks

If you never lived through the '60s, it's quite hard to fully appreciate the creative explosion this era brought to the music industry.

Visiting Beautiful - The Carole King Musical at Royal & Derngate in Northampton this week, I'm very ashamed to say I wasn't absolutely sure who the singer-songwriter in the title was.

This show is not just a tribute to the talent of Carole King and a stark reminder to people (like me) of just how great her contribution to music has been, but it also stands as an interesting insight into the '60s popular music production factory.

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Oliver Boot as Donnie Kirshner, Adam Gillian as Gerry Goffin, Daisy Wood-Davis as Carole King, Cameron Sharp and'Barry Man and Laura Baldwin as Cynthia Weil. Picture: Helen Maybanks

The musical charts the early history of Carole's life, from her beginnings as a teenage songwriter who started selling her music to be sung by the big bands of the day, to her growth and success as a performer in her own right.

It also explores Carole's personal relationships, most notably with her song-writing partner and husband Gerry Goffin, and her close friends and competitors in the industry, the couple Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann.

The Wednesday night show played to a packed crowd, no doubt drawn by its reputation and by the impressive array of songs in the line-up.

Look at some of the titles written or co-written by King which include (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman,Will You Love Me Tomorrow and It's Too Late, it's obvious she was a one-woman hit factory.

Taking on the tough challenge of emulating King's awesome talent on stage was Holby City actress Daisy Wood-Davis, who has a voice of great power and beauty, so did justice to the musical icon she played.

Other star performances came from Adam Gillian as troubled husband Gerry, Laura Baldwin as the feisty and independent Cynthia and Cameron Sharp as the health-obsessed Barry.

Although the show dealt with some serious issues between the title character and her husband, there was also a good amount of welcome humour.

I loved the moments when the bands of the era were replicated on stage, singing the hits King wrote for them. Most notable among these were The Drifters who delivered their music with humorously stiff and dated dance routines. I'm reliably told by my mother that it was common to dance in this way in the '60s and it was considered completely normal.

Equally funny and brilliant was a scene in which King's ex-boyfriend Neil Sedaka was portrayed singing Oh Carol.

A loving tribute to the best of '60s music and, in particular, the genius that is Carole King, Beautiful is a show not to be missed.

* The production will continue in Northampton until Saturday. For details, see www.royalandderngate.co.uk