March 9th 2020
I always know when I go to see Beautiful: The Carole King Musical that I really can sit back, relax and enjoy the show, knowing that it’s going to be great and oh this production didn’t disappoint. On its second visit to the Wales Millennium Centre, Beautiful brings with it a brand new cast and the songs that bring sighs of nostalgia in the audience. Jam-packed with some of Carole King and Gerry Goffin’s best hits, as well as well known tunes by writing partners Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann, Beautiful tells the true story of Carole King through her journey from a young girl living in Brooklyn, to her debut at Carnegie Hall as a Grammy winner and worldwide star.
Leading the cast was Daisy Wood-Davis, of Hollyoaks fame, as a very convincing Carole King. A different portrayal from the four other women I have seen play Carole over the last 5 years, Wood-Davis brings a sweetness and quiet strength to the character. Her voice isn’t loud or belty, but holds a timeless vibrato and shares that same rich, unique, beautiful quality as Carole King. Her acting was superb, and she brought a real honesty and realism to the performance, which is integral for a biopic musical. I was particularly impressed by her outstanding vocals in the final few songs; Natural Woman, Beautiful and I Feel The Earth Move, which showed the power and control Wood-Davis has over her voice. All in all – this was a perfect casting.
Laura Baldwin plays the feisty Cynthia Weil which was also a stand out performance. I was impressed by her vocals, fiery stage presence and comedic timing. This character was a big difference from her recent star turn as geeky waitress, Dawn, in Waitress the Musical. Baldwin was supported by a very funny Cameron Sharp as hypochondriac Barry Mann, who showed off his superb vocals in his solo moments throughout the show. I also enjoyed Leah St Luce’s notable performance as Little Eva in the crowd-pleasing number, Locomotion. She really embodied the diva and embraced her moment to shine on stage with her incredible vocals and stage presence.
Compared to other jukebox musicals, this one stands out as for me for its straight forward but moving storyline, and it’s contextual use of the songs. The songs are only ever sung (minus one brief moment of self reflection from Carole) in the correct context of an actual performance or writing session, allowing this biopic to come across more genuine than if the songs were used out of context.
With a colourful set and a fantastic ensemble of talented performers, this show is not to be missed. I guarantee you’ll be surprised by how many songs you know and how many songs you didn’t know were written by Carole King, and like it did for me, it introduces a new generation to this wonderful music. This is a true story of strength, love, friendship and music, and a stunning ode to a wonderful woman.
Playing at Wales Millennium Centre until Saturday 14th March 2020.