A brand new production of the award-winning West End and Broadway show, Beautiful – The Carole King Musical, is on a UK tour in 2022 and will be coming to Oxford in November.
Co-produced by Curve, Theatre Royal Bath Productions and Mayflower Theatre Southampton, Beautiful tells the inspiring true story of King’s remarkable rise to stardom – from being part of a hit songwriting team with her husband Gerry Goffin to her relationship with fellow writers and best friends Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann to becoming one of the most successful solo acts in popular music history.
Taking the lead role as Carole King is Molly-Grace Cutler (The Worst Witch, Girls Don’t Play Guitars, We’ll Live and Die in these Towns), who says of the production: “It’s done by a full company of live musicians, which is very different to the original Broadway and West End productions and previous tours. It’s a really feel-good musical. It’s emotional and very heartwarming, to say the least”.
As for playing Carole King and feeling any pressure about bringing her to life on stage, she adds: “She’s an incredible music icon. She’s very driven and very determined, and you get to see how resilient she is as her story goes on. As for feeling the pressure, yes, there’s a lot of that, especially given that she’s still to this day a living legend.
“But I’m very happy that I’m getting to play her and her music. The big challenge is in playing someone who is still around, so people will inevitably compare you to her, as well as other people who have played the role before. It’s about doing your own thing whilst also paying respect to the people before, along with Carole herself.”
Molly Grace says she did her research after being cast, watching as many interviews as she could find. She adds: “although there isn’t a lot because she’s notoriously shy, but the ones that I did find were very helpful. Then I watched clips of her performing, and, thankfully, there are a lot more of those than there are interviews.”
Moving from researching the role to rehearsals, Molly Grace added: “She’s a great pop songwriter, and that’s similar to what I’m used to performing.
“She’s very specific in her technique and the way she writes, so it was fun to get into her way of playing. And I was already a fan. I had her Tapestry album on vinyl from when I was a kid. My granddad gave it to me when I was seven or eight years old, so I’ve been listening to her music for a long time.
“She wrote so much for so many other singers and musicians. A lot of people don’t realise how much music she actually wrote and who she wrote for. That’s a great thing in the show – that you get to see how much she contributed to the music industry.”
Tom Milner (Holby City, Waterloo Road) will play Gerry Goffin, Carole’s former husband and collaborator. Tom, whose first-ever stage role was in a George Styles and Anthony Drewe musical called Soho Cinders, said of playing Gerry, “I’d heard of Goffin and King’s music, but I didn’t realise how much they wrote and how much they did for the industry. I also didn’t know about him as a person. He was always chasing happiness and the next big thing, which set him on a downward spiral.”
Seren Sandham-Davies (Crazy For You, Brassed Off) and Jos Slovick, who performed in the original West End production of Once, will play husband and wife songwriting duo, Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann.
Seren, who was in Brassed Off in 2015, commented: “Having actor-musicians play the parts works so well for this show because it has music at its core. When you have a story like Beautiful, that’s all about music and musicianship, it takes it to a whole new level.”
Tom, who does a great rocking uptempo song with the cast called Pleasant Valley Sunday, echos the sentiments, saying: “It’s always fun because I get to combine my two great loves, namely acting and playing music. Are there enough shows that offer the chance to do both?”
Garry Robson returns to Curve as music producer and talent manager Don Kirshner. Garry was last seen on stage in Leicester as General Henry Waverly in the 2018 Made-at-Curve production of White Christmas.
Claire Greenway, who originated the role of Sister Mary Patrick in Sister Act at the London Palladium, will play Carole’s mother, Genie Klein, and Dan de Cruz will join as the production’s on-stage Musical Director. The cast is completed by Naomi Alade, Kemi Clarke, Chris Coxon, Amena El-Kindy, Louise Francis, Dylan Gordon-Jones, Jessica Jolleys, Sorrel Jordan, Myles Miller, Peter Mooney, Adrien Spencer and Kevin Yates.
The musical will be directed by Curve’s Artistic Director Nikolai Foster, whose recent credits include acclaimed five-star productions of A Chorus Line, West Side Story, and 2020’s streamed production of Sunset Boulevard – at Home.
Speaking about the cast, Chris Stafford, Chief Executive of Curve and Artistic Director Nikolai Foster, said: “Carole King’s body of work speaks for itself, and it is an honour to work on a show which celebrates some of the greatest pop songs ever written and the extraordinary life of the woman who has provided the soundtrack to our lives across the decades.
“In Molly-Grace Cutler, we have the perfect actor to lead our production and embody the spirit of King’s supreme artistry. Molly leads a phenomenal company of actor-musicians who will recreate all the hits live on stage under the supreme musical talents of Grammy winner Steve Sidwell and Tony winner Sarah Travis.
“We are thrilled to be collaborating with our friends at Theatre Royal Bath and Southampton Mayflower, flying the flag for Leicester once Beautiful tours from Curve.”
Carole King’s music will be brought to life by Grammy Award-winning Orchestrator Steve Sidwell and adapted by Tony Award-winning Curve Associate and Musical Supervisor Sarah Travis. The production will be choreographed by rising star Leah Hill (The Wiz, Hope Mill Theatre), with Associate Choreographer Tarik Frimpong.
The creative team also includes Set Designer Frankie Bradshaw, Costume Designer Edd Lindley, Lighting Designer and Curve Associate Ben Cracknell, Sound Designer Tom Marshall, Associate Director Jennifer Lane Baker and Casting Director and Curve Associate Kay Magson CDG.
The production will provide training opportunities for Regional Theatre Young Directors Scheme (RTYDS) Resident Assistant Director Lilac Yosiphon and Birkbeck Trainee Director Thyrza Abrahams.
Featuring countless classics such as You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman, Take Good Care of my Baby, You’ve Got a Friend, Up on the Roof, Locomotion, and You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling, Beautiful – The Carole King Musical is written by Douglas McGrath, with songs by Carole King, Gerry Goffin, Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil.
When asked about taking Beautiful around the country, Molly-Grace said: “It’s about getting to share some incredible music with people who don’t necessarily realise just how much they love it until they hear it played live.
“That’s an absolute joy, as is getting to share Carole’s story. A lot of people don’t know enough about her, so it’s nice to show what she went through and how much she’s achieved. I love her. She’s amazing.”
Beautiful – The Carole King Musical was originally produced on Broadway and in London by Paul Blake, SONY/ATV Music Publishing and Mike Bosner.
Beautiful – The Carole King Musical opens at New Theatre Oxford on Tuesday, 22 November 2022 and will run until Saturday, 26 November.