The incredible feeling you get from watching ‘Beautiful The Carole King Musical’ is of being a fly on the wall in music history.
Carole King started her music career when the industry was a business and acquiring a day job such as songwriting was a vocation choice. In a nutshell, Carole left school, got a job in an office and went to work every day as a songwriter.
That office, the creative hub known as The Brill Building, is still at 1619 Broadway today. There is too much history to cover in one show. ‘Beautiful’ is a snapshot of King’s moment.
Carole met her husband Gerry Goffin working at the Brill Building. Their two closest friends were another songwriting couple Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann. This show is their story across a 10 years period right up to the release of Carole’s iconic ‘Tapestry’ album.
Esther Hannaford (as Carole King) is crucial to the believability of the story. Her physical features resemble Carole’s but what is most striking about the Carole story is how down to earth she is. Because Carole as a songwriter was an accessory to the stars she never developed an ego. By the time ‘Tapestry’ came along, her life was absorbed by being a single mother. The fame was a distraction. That must have been an additional challenge to Esther. This takes a completely different set of acting skills than role-playing the fictitious character she played in King Kong. At the end of ‘Beautiful’, you feel like you have seen Carole King.
Josh Piterman is Gerry Goffin, Carole’s future, current and ex-husband over the course of this storyline. While together Goffin and King were one of the greatest musical partnerships of all time, the marriage was to become a train-wreck (or should we say loco-motion wreck). Josh can sing. He was one of The Ten Tenors. His performance allows the audience to understand the chemistry between Carole and Jerry, why she needed him and he needed her to create the songs they created.
Lucy Maunder and Mat Verevis are Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann, another incredible songwriting partnership of the 60s. Their inclusion in this story creates the parallel that gives the sense of how Don Kirshner (Mike McLeish) worked his historic songwriting factory. Its also incredible to learn that while Carole and Gerry were in one office pumping out hits for others like ‘The Loco-Motion’ and ‘Up On The Roof’ Barry and Cynthia were literally in the next room where they made ‘We Gotta Get Out Of This Place’ and ‘Walking In The Rain’. This show brings two of America’s greatest catalogues together.
There are other factual musical moments in the show. Neil Sedaka is heard signing ‘Oh Carol’ which he wrote about Carole King when they were at school together in Brooklyn when she was still known as Carol (without the e) Klein. Fun fact: Neil Diamond, who also worked as a songwriter at the Brill Building, also went to the same school. Another part, Little Eva, played by Chloe Zuel, really was Carole and Gerry’s babysitter when she recorded (and then had a number one hit with) ‘Loco-Motion’.
The Australian production of ‘Beautiful The Carole King Musical’ is the latest show from Michael Cassel, who is behind Priscilla Queen of the Desert’ also playing in Melbourne at the moment as well as the recent ‘Kinky Boots’.
For opening night it was also an honour to have the show’s American producer Mike Bosner in Melbourne for the premiere. Mike worked directly with Carole King on the original production. Liberties were only taken for the flow of the story. ‘Beautiful The Carole King Musical’ is an accurate portrayal of a moment in the music history.
This show really is some kind of wonderful. In bringing ‘Beautiful’ to the stage Mike Bosner has created a production of historical relevance. This show should be placed in the Smithsonian as a factual re-enactment of one of the most important musical stories in American culture.
‘Beautiful The Carole King Musical’ is playing in Melbourne at her Majesties Theatre until 3 June 2018 and then heads to Brisbane in July.