Tuesday, April 23

Beautiful The Carole King Musical – Grange Theatre

This evening, I was lucky enough to visit The Grange Theatre in Hartford where The Zodiac are performing Beautiful – The Carole King Musical, the Northwest amateur premier, directed very well by Valarie Ball. After a wonderful greeting by the company and made to feel very welcome (thank you to Jude and Jessica), we take our seats ready for the show. The stage is set with a grand piano in the centre, with a spotlight on it. As the curtain goes up, we see the huge structure that is used to break the stage up, giving the piece levels and the 10-piece on stage band a home throughout the show.

Beautiful follows the story of Carole Joan Klein, who takes on the stage name of Carole King at 16 when she pitches her first song ‘It might as rain well until September’, to meeting her future husband, Gerry Goffin, having children and writing smash hits for many well known stars such as The Shirelles, The Drifters, Little Eva and the Righteous Brothers to name but a few.

Beth Stratford is a complete star as King, delivering stunning vocals and a great vulnerability throughout the piece, going from strength to strength to finally realising that she no longer needs other people, and she can do this herself. Such a talent and a joy to lose yourself in the story with.

Husband Goffin is played by Michael Silverman and after a strong start, I feel a little lost as the show goes along as Silverman seems to become a little more introverted, possibly due to the downfall of the character, but I am feeling less and less connected to the character and finding it harder to understand what is being said, with dialogue being rushed and a little mumbled. This could be down to it being the first night and still settling into the character. Silverman does deliver some fantastic vocals throughout.

Chris Doyle as Barry Mann and Francesca Wellman as Cynthia Weil are a fantastic pairing, with hilarious dialogue and fantastic delivery. Wellman is so dry with her delivery that I find myself laughing at the smallest of lines. Debbie Allen as King’s Mother Genie Klein is hilarious, a typical Mum and Phil Murray is brilliant as Donny Kirshner.

There are a few group numbers that stood out for me, Will You Love Me Tomorrow by the Shirelles and The Locomotion by Little Eva supported by the ensemble are incredible, with slick choreography and stunning vocals. Choreography provided by Jessica Martin is fantastic, very fitting with the time and for the most delivered with precision and energy.

A standout for me this evening is Sam Eggins who plays several roles including one of the Drifters, a Righteous Brother and Nick and took the limelight whenever he is performing, delivering incredible vocals and some great moves. Well done Sam.

The structural set takes up a considerable proportion of the stage, so I was pleasantly surprised to see how much movable set was used to bring the piece to life, including an upright piano, sofas, a huge door to name but a few. There are a couple of tiny technical issues throughout the piece but nothing so much as it takes away the enjoyment of the show and can be put down to it being opening night, but the set changes overall were slick and helps to keep the piece moving very well.

The costumes and hair/wigs are perfect for the time, nothing looked out of place, and everyone looks brilliant.

Lighting by Joe Sanderson is used extremely well, simple but effective and helped give the piece extra life where needed. Sound by Joe Cox for the majority was great although a few times I find myself struggling to hear some songs due to the level of the band overpowering the vocals.

The band, led by Craig Price, are top notch, delivering an incredible sound and a beating heart to the piece.

Beautiful really is a lovely show and The Zodiac have done it proud. With well known songs and fab dancing, you will be bopping in your seats throughout.

Running until Saturday 2nd March 2024, tickets are available at www.thezodiac.org/tickets

Reviewer: Damian Riverol

Reviewed: 28th February 2024

North West End UK Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.