Beautiful: The Carole King Musical – Bord Gais Theatre – Review by Pat Viale
Masterly staging, inventive choreography along with a nostalgia-fest of some of the best songs of the 1960s and early 70s make for a thoroughly enjoyable evening’s entertainment at the Bord Gais Energy Theatre. The enthusiastic standing ovation as Carole King (a fantastic Bronté Barbé) finished her last song at her Carnegie Hall concert said it all….and for once in a Dublin theatre, it was totally deserved. Barbé had the audience eating out of her hand from the moment she came on stage as the nervous schoolgirl with a dream of making a career in the music industry and the evening never flagged right up to her last number.
It is extraordinary to think that King had already written one of her most popular hits, “It Might As Well Rain Until September”, at the age of 16. It had been turned down by all the music producers she had sent it to, leading to her promising her mother that she will forget music and concentrate on her studies to become a teacher if this last attempt fails. Fortunately, for music-lovers as well as King herself, music impresario Donnie Kirshner immediately recognised the prodigious talent that had presented itself in his office. He loves the song and when it makes it into the charts, King is hired as one of his stable of song writers.
A chance encounter with another student at her high school, Gerry Goffin (Kane Oliver Parry), led to the formation of the celebrated musical duo who wrote some of the biggest hits of the 60s including “Take Good Care of My Baby”, “Will You Love Me Tomorrow” and “Up on the Roof”. King, who felt her talent was as a composer rather than a lyricist, came to depend on Goffin and together they wrote hits for some of the biggest stars of the time; The Shirelles, The Drifters, The Monkees and even their former baby-sitter, Little Eva. Beautiful tells the story of their tempestuous life together and their friendly rivalry with another song-writing duo, Barry Mann and Cynthia Wall, both strong, engaging performances by Matthew Gonsalves and Amy Ellen Richardson.
From the start, a nostalgic sense of period is captured by the flouncy costumes and camp dance sequences of the singers as they perform King’s songs. The vignette of Neil Sedaka’s suggestive gyrations as he sang his 1958 hit “Oh Carol” on television (just one of many inventive touches in the direction) sets the tone for a fast-moving and always entertaining jaunt down memory lane. Though the writing is, at times, less than inspired, it serves its purpose of stitching together the story of the music and linking the set pieces. Comic interjections of King’s mother (a nice cameo role from Carol Royle) and the hypochondriac Mann keep the audience chuckling.
This is a totally engaging production that seems to have transferred without a hitch to the stage of the Bord Gais. The scene changes are never intrusive, the pace never flags, it has great dancing, singing and most of all wonderful songs. It is a show that will appeal to everyone – as well as the large scattering of grandmothers and granddads among last night’s audience, there were many teenagers and 20 somethings who seemed to love it every bit as much. Go see it if you can still get a ticket. The show continues at the Bord Gais Energy Theatre until Saturday, 20th January.