Left – Esther Hannaford. Cover – Esther Hannaford and Josh Piterman. Photos – Joan Marcus
Thursday night at the Lyric Theatre for the Brisbane premiere of Beautiful, The Carole King Musical and I am excited. Helpmann awards aside (and what an aside! chart-topping hits ‘You’ve Got a Friend’ and ‘I Feel the Earth Move’ taking out the coveted best musical gong) this is the music I grew up with. Yes, these are my coevals with music that scored my life and times. Transported back, and singing along with EVERY song (in my mind, that is, wouldn’t want to ruin it for anyone sitting beside me), I was not alone.
‘You’re so far away... doesn’t anybody stay in one place anymore,’ and the sliding set, with Esther Hannaford ‘at piano’, begins the story – a story that will weave the audience into this musical mesh and leave us all replete by the finale. Esther Hannaford is brilliant in this role – her voice, intensity, heartfelt and pure, made the hair on my arms stand up! Being of ethnic origin, that, my friend, is a musical chore in itself!
Music has no barrier when it is of this magnitude, with young and old alike gobsmacked by the sheer volume of songs (and variety) that Carole King, with husband and lyricist, Gerry Goffin (take a bow Josh Piterman, you nailed it) produced. Team this with songwriting duo Barry Mann (Mat Verevis, awesome) and Cynthia Weil (Lucy Maunder, love your work) and the battle-of-getting-a-number-one-hit, and you have the makings of an award-winning show. Naturally.
Not only does this show deliver musicality beyond expectation, this is a walk down memory lane and all of the cast are exemplary in their own right. Throughout this musical journey you are not only introduced to the life and times of Carole King – you get to witness Neil Sedaka, The Shirelles, The Drifters, Little Eva and Ensemble, The Righteous Brothers and so many musical vignettes (James Taylor, ha ha, what a moment) and COMEDIC relief throughout. The music and the dialogue between the players never gives up for a second. The time speeds away, and the show is seamless from the get-go, with every moment memorable.
To quote Michael Cassel, Producer:
“I’m incredibly proud of this diverse and astoundingly talented Australian cast of twenty-four, which is one of the most multicultural on the Australian stage, with performers from a mix of ethnic backgrounds. It was important to me that we showcase local Australian talent, and talent we found.”
From the seamless stage and set design (I love a sliding set, how does that work??) to the direction, orchestration, lighting, choreography, costume and sound design – this show did not let up for one moment. Pepper this with one-liners and Carole’s mum (everyone should have one, thank you Anne Wood, the hairbrush alone is worth the freight) with Mike McLeish a convincing Don Kirshner and getting the musical ball rolling – the cast and crew make for a showstopper. The audience was laughing from the first slide-of-set to the last poignant moments, wrapped around with the music that brought a tear to my eyes, from the memory overload and dexterity of the performers.
Some of my favourite one-liners (spoiler alert): “Sure, people in show business are known for their kindness”; “who wants to hear a normal person sing?”; “What I’m offering is a life of mutual anxiety and doubt...” to name but a few – with many crescendo moments.
Full circle and the audience are overwhelmed, standing ovation at the finale with Carole singing and stringing our hearts together: ‘You’re as beautiful as you feel…’
What a show. Standing ovation indeed – I would still be there if the theatre hadn’t closed around me!
Michael Cassel in association with Paul Blake & Sony/ATV Music Publishing & Mike Bosner presents
Beautiful: The Carole King Musical
by Douglas McGrath
Director Marc Bruni
Venue: Lyric Theatre| Corner of Grey St & Melbourne St, South Bank QLD
Dates: 19 July – 2 September 2018
Tickets: $60 - $195