Beautiful review - December 2014

C'mon baby, do the locomotion!

All I have heard from across the pond from the eternally fabulous Great White Way is “Beautiful.” “Beautiful” this and “Beautiful” that, “you MUST SEE Beautiful!” OKAY ALREADY. Not satisfied with having to wait until 2015 like every other Londoner, I decided to make the trip to the Stephen Sondheim Theatre to see this show in its home on Broadway. I am pleased to report what New York has been saying for a long time: Beautiful is the next great jukebox musical and it will certainly enrich the West End when it arrives in the Spring.

Unlike some Jukebox’s, Beautiful brings a new level of class to both its content and look; a well written book is offset by some simple but effective choreography and a stylish set that perfectly evokes the 60’s era.

Beautiful again sets itself apart from it’s jukebox counterparts and the shows structure really allows for character development. Rather than actress Jessie Mueller, who depicts King, breaking into song at every available opportunity, her songs are performed by those much showier than herself and over the course of the two acts we slowly see her transform into a performer. It is an engaging journey to watch and one that Mueller performs flawlessly and enviably. I hope that our British Carole, Katie Brayben can perform the role with such blossoming colour.

Similarly I hope the still to be announced London cast can fulfil the roles of Gerry, played by Scott J Campbell, and rivals turned friends Cynthia Weil played by Anika Larsen and Barry Mann performed by Jarrod Spector. It is rare that secondary characters are just as interesting as the principles, but here this was most definitely the case.

Even if you are unaware of the name “Carole King” (she did do a good job of hiding behind her musical writing in her early years) you will undoubtedly know her music. Tunes such as “Take Good Care of My Baby,” “Will You Love Me Tomorrow,” “The Locomotion,” and “You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman” are all round crowd-pleasers. Whilst the audience did seem to be made up of 50 something year olds who owned the Tapestry album, all generations alike gave rapturous applause to the music.

Okay so I am not sure that the show will have exactly the same effect as it does in Manhattan; the show is largely set in the city and focuses on Brooklyn born Carole King who spent her married life with Gerry living and working in the city. There is a certain vibe one gets from actually being THERE – where it all began on this journey to stardom for Carole, but it is of course still a relevant tale in any city and I think it will light up London’s Aldwych Theatre just as bright as Broadway’s Stephen Sondheim.

Yes, this show IS a jukebox musical so there is obviously a huge song and dance number to dramatic scene ratio, which is my least favourite thing about the genre. However Beautiful manages to also generate a true, meaningful and touching tale of personal success in the face of misery, which is something we can all draw inspiration from. I for one am very excited to see this show make its move to London, where I can only imagine it will attract similar success.

You can book tickets to see Beautiful in London NOW!

Grand Guignol review London 2014
23 December 2014, Aldwych Theatre