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Beautiful: The Carol King Musical, New Theatre Oxford

By Charlotte Askew

Beautiful – this musical certainly lives up to its name! Unknown to many in Generation Z, Carole King was one of the biggest names in 20th-century pop culture and to this day her songs remain loved by many across the globe. It is only right, that she now has a musical dedicated to her long reign in the industry.

I was first introduced to the singer as a child, when my father would play her songs in the car such as her Grammy award-winning single ‘It’s too late.’ To my surprise, I also discovered that King was the genius behind many hit singles such as Aretha Franklin’s ' (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman.’

Her knack for song writing was well developed throughout the musical, spanning the early influences of classical music to her flourishing career under a music label which then led her to launch her own solo singing career post-divorce. Following both her personal and private life, the narrative gave new meanings to the lyrics behind her songs and captivated the audience especially as many were of her generation.

This was a musical unlike any other as the orchestra was not in its usual pit, but rather was on stage! The actors were cast simultaneously as musicians as they performed live and provided the music, a theatre phenomenon that was born in the 1990s. It was quite a unique experience and made viewing the show that more special because you had an insight into what it would have been like to see King perform live throughout her whole career.

The lead was played by Molly-Grace Cutler who sounded eerily identical to Carole King and could play the piano effortlessly. The sound of the instruments sometimes obscured the actor's voices, but this was only on occasion. Overall, the musical production was succinct and flowed well alongside the acting.

The musical promises to bring bright and energetic scenes to liven up your evening. A highlight was the closing finale when the actors received a standing ovation from the audience and proceeded to perform their hit song while we all stood up and danced with them!

Carole King became the voice of her generation, and this musical shows her voice, once again, beckoning into our generation.


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