Daisy Wood-Davis returned to her hometown of Bromley in triumph as the lead in Beautiful: The Carole King Musical. The spotlight caught her on stage, alone at her piano singing So Far Away, one of her greatest songs, before taking us far away back to the beginning when as a 16 year old she began writing the first of her many hits, writes Michael Holland.
King, along with her songwriting partner Jerry Goffin, was the A Side to many people’s lives in the early 60s before the Beatles came on the scene, but even they covered one of her songs (Chains), with The Animals and Herman’s Hermits also taking her tunes in to the British charts. But she was an American legend, where she had hit after hit after hit taken to the top by some of the greatest performers of that time.
In Beautiful we get the all the songs and all the ups and downs that go with them as King escapes from her mother’s clutches in Brooklyn to take her chances in the big city. Here she meets Goffin and forms a partnership that broke records but also broke her heart as he wooed her, married her and then cheated on her. But on that journey we are treated to many of their hits performed by top singers playing the role of the Drifters, Little Eva, the Righteous Brothers, The Chiffons, and Neil Sedaka. And that meant fantastic versions of Up On The Roof, The Locomotion, It Might As Well Rain Until September, We Gotta Get Outta This Place, Pleasant Valley Sunday, You’ve Got A Friend… The list goes on.
Yes, this is just a potted history – propped up by smiles and song – of what must have at times been a hard life for Carole King. We don’t see how she struggled with two children after Goffin left; and there was just a cursory wave at how their kind of music almost got swept away when Beatlemania arrived on the US shores. But what’s wrong with a feelgood show? Nothing. Especially when it ends as King breaks out on her own with the multi-award winning album Tapestry.
Daisy Wood-Davis was perfect for the role of King and deserved her standing ovation; plus, Susie Fenwick was a class act as her typical Jewish mother, showing great comic timing in all her scenes. But the rest of the cast did magic when recreating those 60s groups, and the whole ensemble built a wall of sound to make Beautiful a true spectacle. Down in the pit, but not forgotten, there was also the unseen band that drove that 60s and 70s music on, and my hat goes off to them. Beautiful is exactly that – Beautiful.
Churchill Theatre, High Street, Bromley, BR1 1HA until 18th January 2020. Times: 7.30pm, matinees 2.30pm. Admission: £20 – £49. Phone: 020 3285 6000
Photos from previous tour: Craig Sugden.