Beautiful, The Carole King Musical
Adelaide Fringe 2020 - Feb 29th - 29th
”“Wake up and put a smile on your face!“
In Beautiful, the Carole King Musical, the story highlights the importance of having a dream and following it through. Carole believed in her music and writing and eventually she was able to sing her own songs about her life.
It made me want to rush out and buy CDs or download her Tapestry album to listen to it, as I didn’t know much about Carole King’s life, apart from the fact that she wrote “You’ve got a Friend” which was a big hit for James Taylor. Although I have always loved her music, I didn’t know she was such a prolific song writer.
Jemma McCulloch was superb as Carole King – great voice, great acting and piano playing. Maya Millar did a fantastic job as Cynthia Weil. Trevor Anderson was fabulous as Gerry Griffin. Joshua Kerr as Barry Mann was a bit flat at times, but his acting was good. The other singers were excellent too, particularly Louisa Villine as Janelle Woods, Alisa James as Little Eva and Carly Meakin the ‘Uptown singer’. I also enjoyed the Shirelles, Drifters and Righteous Brothers songs and synchronised dances.
Choreography by Shenayde Wilkinson-Sarti was wonderful, and all the dancers and singers seemed to enjoy dancing the iconic dances to their songs, especially Locomotion.
Stunning colourful costumes, wigs and hairstyles by Louise Watkins set the scene for a performance beautifully told by all the cast, crew and musicians.
Peter John’s Musical Direction was very important and well managed – the sound was terrific. All the actors who played the piano, particularly Jemma, were so realistic, we couldn’t tell if it was a real piano or not!
Using two separate sides of the stage and the higher stage at the back with the musicians sometimes shown, sometimes playing invisibly, was a clever way to show the action simultaneously and seamlessly. Bravo for stage setting David Gauci! Also the 1960s and ‘70s colours and props were appropriate to the eras.
Tim Bates’ illumination was magnificent.
The audience especially loved the songs You’ve got a Friend, A Natural Woman, Uptown, I feel the Earth Move and of course the title song Beautiful. It was great to hear lots of Carole King songs created for the album Tapestry which was finally performed at Carniege Hall as the pinnacle of her career.
Well done Davine Productions, cast and crew! I recommend you goAllison ThomasTASA
”A highlight of the Fringe so far has been the sold-out production of the Carole King musical, Beautiful, by Davine Productions, at the Star Theatres.
Producer/Director David Gauci and a fantastic cast deliver the story and the music of one of the greatest composers, and Jemma McCulloch reveals star potential as King in a performance to treasure.
It’s great to have a musical stealing the show in the comedy and cabaret-laden Fringe.Matt ByrneThe Sunday Mail
Let’s hope a return season is possible.
”Book by Douglas McGrath. Words & Music by Gerry Goffin & Carole King, Barry Mann & Cynthia Weil. Adelaide Fringe.
David Gauci & Davine Productions. Star Theatre. 19 - 29 February, 2020
Beautiful – The Carole King Musical premiered on Broadway in 2014. It has subsequently been performed throughout the USA and the UK, and there was an Australian tour in 2017. Why it didn’t come to Adelaide is a mystery. However, thanks to David Gauci and Davine Productions Adelaide finally gets to see and experience this truly delightful musical.
This is a juke-box bio musical based on the early life of legendary American songwriter Carole King. It’s not so much a ‘rags to riches’ story as Carole King found success very early in life. Her masterwork, however, is the album Tapestry that was released in 1971. In many ways this musical tribute to Carole King deals with her personal and professional journey to creating that extraordinary album; to reference William Blake it move from ‘Songs of Innocence’ to Songs of Experience, the maturing of a major American music artist culminating in Tapestry. The story goes from her first hits then to her marriage with co-creator Gerry Goffin as well as her relationship with fellow songwriters and friends Barry Mann and Cynthia to finally creating Tapestry and performing at Carnegie Hall. Along the way there is a plethora of great songs that will have you fondly sighing and tapping your feet or nodding your head and bursting into applause. It’s a great night at the theatre.
With an exemplary cast and crew it is difficult to pick out anyone in this terrific ensemble. However, this musical, as with any show, really succeeds if the audience actually cares for the protagonist and the main character. In this case Carole King herself – or a version of her. Jemma McCulloch is absolutely terrific as Carole King. Did I feel ‘The Earth Move Under My Feet’ – I most certainly did and was standing and cheering her and her colleagues at the end of the show. Trevor Anderson as Gerry Goffin, Maya Miller as Cynthia Weil, Joshua Kerr as Barry Mann, and Brendan Cooney as Donnie Kirshner are also wonderful in their respective roles. They are well supported by an excellent band, led by Musical Director Peter Johns and a sizable ensemble of fabulous young talent, some of whom are students at the new Musical Theatre course at Adelaide University. They and the entre ensemble are all terrific. One member of this ensemble in particular really impressed me – Carly Meakin who has the tiny role of ‘Uptown Singer’ and sings the song ‘Uptown’ – what a voice!!! Fabulous.Tony KnightStage Whispers
Full credit for this wonderful production, however, should go to producer-director David Gauci. I have been very impressed with everything David Gauci has done with Davine Productions, including excellent local productions of The Light in the Piazza, Violet, and It’s Only Life. Adelaide and young musical theatre artists are blessed and fortunate to have someone like David Gauci supporting them and bringing to Adelaide shows that otherwise we would not see. Thank you, David.
”Davine Productions has assembled a stellar cast for Beautiful – The Carole King Musical, currently playing a sold out season as part of the Adelaide Fringe. In the role of Carole King is Jemma McCulloch, who brings the character to life with conviction, passion, warmth and humility.
Beautiful is the story of Carole King’s rise to fame. Meeting her husband Gerry Goffin at 16 years old, starting a family, right through to personal struggles within their marriage. The successful songwriting duo produced hits for Neil Sedaka, The Shirelles, The Drifters, Little Eva, and the Righteous Brothers to name a few. Carole King and her husband wrote The Locomotion!
The professional production cancelled its Adelaide season last year, and was stoked to hear it had been picked up by a local theatre company. Carole King’s Tapestry album is on my favourite Spotify playlist and hailed as one of the most successful albums of all time – winning multiple Grammy awards and selling millions of copies.
The leads are extremely strong and of a professional standard namely Jemma McCulloch (Carole King) Trevor Anderson (Gerry Goffin) Maya Miller (Cynthia Weil ) Joshua Kerr (Barry Mann) Brendan Cooney (Donnie Kirschner) and Kate Anolak (Genie Klein).
Director David Gauci’s casting of a diverse range of talent should be applauded. He gives the opportunity for new talent to be involved and brings the best out in everyone, not just the leads. It was refreshing to see a diverse mix of different levels of experience, each given the chance to learn and grow.
Whereas some theatre companies tend to cast the same people over and over, David Gauci believes in giving all talent a go, not just a selected few. The supporting cast and ensemble blended well, and those who made their musical theatre debut gave it their best shot – which made the production a standout.
The set design is incredible – the back of the stage used for the band and larger music numbers, and the front part where most of the dialogue and story took place. Each side had a screen projecting HD 3D images of various scenes (e.g. office, recording studio, Carnegie Hall, home) that were sharp, effective and totally realistic.
There were quick and seamless set changes and this clever effect took the production to the next level – especially during the more dynamic and high energy music numbers. Lighting and sound faultless, with no late cues, front of house clear and crisp, and sound mixed to the right level.
Music Director Peter Johns has perfected the authentic sound and tempos for the musical numbers. The musicians he’s pulled together for this production are of a high standard, punchy, tight and sound true to the era.
Choreography by Sheynade Wilkinson-Sarti is simple yet dynamic. Keep in mind that some of the supporting cast made their musical theatre debut. The dancing was effective, tight and pretty sharp. Costume Designer Louise Watkins put a lot of thought and creativity into the costumes to reflect the era, which can be challenging and managed to do a great job.
Part Jersey Boys, part Leader of the Pack, part Friends – this is one of the best independent theatre productions I’ve seen in Adelaide.
David Gauci is breathing a fresh new approach into Adelaide productions, and has excelled with Beautiful The Carole King Musical. The sell out season, and standing ovation was well deserved – Jemma McCulloch (Carole King) along with many of the cast have a bright future ahead of them.
Finally, a thank you to Carole King for without her personal struggles and pain, there’d be no Tapestry album and hits like Natural Woman, It’s Too Late, You’ve Got A Friend and I Feel The Earth Move.Betty SamisAll About Entertainment
”“Take Good Care of My Baby”, “The Locomotion”, “Up on the Roof”, “Will You Love Me Tomorrow”: who can stop themselves from tapping their toes and grooving along to a good 60s tune? But while many will know the names of the artists who made some of these songs famous – Bobby Vee, Little Eva, The Drifters, The Shirelles – they might not as quickly be able to list out who wrote them. While Carole King became, and still is, a writer and performer in her own right across several decades, it may be a surprise to learn that she is also the face behind the tunes above and many more such hits, before she started as a singer-songwriter a little later in her career.
“Beautiful” tells the story of King’s early career, starting from a sixteen-year-old with a dream to write music, through to the launch of “Tapestry”, her first album and major hit as a solo artist. The book is solid, though like many such “jukebox musicals” with a decent storyline, sadly based on the challenges King faced during her life, such as an early surprise pregnancy, and her turbulent relationship with a womanising husband also dealing with mental health issues. That being said, much of the story is about her talent, strength and resilience through tough times, and when set to the soundtrack of so many 60s and 70s hits, it makes for enjoyable watching.
Director David Gauci, Music Director Peter Johns and Choreographer Shenayde Wilkinson-Sarti, along with Costume Designer Louise Watkins, have created a well-paced production of this show, where it’s evident that all the parts, from those on stage to those behind the scenes, are working seamlessly together to ensure the final product is as slick, and visually and aurally appealing as possible. This was particularly evident when, on the night of this review, an understudy had to sing for a lead performer from off-stage, with a seamless end-result.
While not entirely perfect, and featuring a few moments that could have used some extra tightening, the production gives all of its performers the opportunity to shine. And most importantly, the principal cast is both strong and engaging.
Davine hit the jackpot with Jemma McCulloch in the title role as King. With a fantastic voice and diverse and convincing characterisation, whilst being present on stage for almost the entire show, she is a delight to watch at all times. We can hopefully look forward to seeing much more of her on Adelaide stages in the future.
Opposite her Trevor Anderson delivers an outstanding performance as King’s love interest, husband and lyricist/partner Gerry Goffin. Starting as the charming university student, Anderson lets Goffin slowly unravel through affairs and a nervous breakdown, ultimately retiring into the shadows as King moves on and further into the limelight.
As King’s friends and competitor songwriting duo Cynthia Weil & Barry Mann, Maya Miller and Joshua Kerr display some great on-stage chemistry and entertaining moments, and the four principals are strongly supported by enjoyable performances by Brendan Cooney as music producer Donnie Kirschner and Kate Anolak as Genie Klein, King’s downtrodden and overbearing mother who, on occasion, could manage to say just the right thing.
Outside of McCulloch, the music is of course the hero of this production, and pleasingly the band is tight, doesn’t overpower the singers, and overall sounds amazing.
Kudos must certainly go to Davine Productions for the delivery of another well-produced show and the staging of such a highly successful season.Nikki GaertnerAdelaide Theatre Guide
”Rave, rave, rave! Davine have done it again!
Methinks Producer / Director David Gauci is going to need a bigger awards shelf at the Davine production offices. Beautiful – The Carole King Musical is a theatrical triumph, and what’s more comprises an entirely local cast!
The jukebox musical, with book by Douglas McGrath, tells the story of Carole Joan Klein (stage name Carole King), from her discovery by Don Kirshner and employment at the Brill Building in 1958, through to her transition onto the stage as a performer in her own right in the late 1970s.
The story tracks the highs and lows of King’s career and marriage to Gerry Goffin, and cleverly intersperses many of her and Goffin’s greatest hits, still recognised today as standards of the genre.
Gauci and Davine Productions are no strangers to success, having produced multiple award-winning productions; this show undoubtedly will be added to that list.
Gauci has assembled a stellar cast (where does he find them?) of spectacular young triple threats who could have performed out of a cardboard box and still blown our socks off.
Gauci's simple yet wonderfully techy set is brought vividly to life by Shenayde Wilkinson-Sarti’s delicious choreography, Tim Bates' lighting, and Louise Watkins wonderful costumes. The theatre is filled to the rafters with the awesome sound and musical stylings of Peter Johns' band, all perfectly amplified by Allpro Audio. This production is second to none.
The ensemble cast completely own their time in the spotlight, and special mentions are warranted for Jordan Coulter, Carly Meakin, Louisa Vilinne, Alisa James, and Anthony Vawser, for their solo renditions of various numbers which were all vocally spectacular.
Choreographers love it when dancers are up for a challenge, and Wilkinson-Sarti must have relished working with such a talented group. The big dance numbers reveal a choreographer and her dancers in perfect synchronicity; the energy and flow is electric and the choreography almost cinematic in its application.
But in this cast full of leading men and ladies, it is the actual leads that completely steal the show.
Kate Anolak delivers comedy gold as Carole’s mother, Genie Klein; Brendan Cooney is measured and mature, and provides perfect balance to the youthful enthusiasm of his musical prodigies; Joshua Kerr is all at once funny and sincere in his portrayal of Barry Mann, and as his lover and music writing partner Cynthia Weil, Maya Miller is all exuberance and class packaged with a pitch perfect singing voice and enviable stage presence.
Trevor Anderson lays it all on the line as manic Gerry Goffin in what surely must be one of his best performances to date; his characterisation delivers on the rollercoaster of emotions that provide the spring board for King’s emotional and musical inspiration. Anderson is absolutely engaging to watch, especially singing Up On The Roof and Pleasant Valley Sunday.
But it is Jemma McCulloch’s performance as Carole King that will have them talking for years to come.
What McCulloch gives is more than just performance, it transcends the stage, she isn’t playing Carole King – she is Carole King. McCulloch’s smoky, sultry tones are all at once filled with desire, delight, sadness, and love. She has a tonality that draws you in and envelopes you, taking your breathe completely away. McCulloch could sing me the phone book and I'd listen for hours. Sign me up for the first copy of the cast album!
The entire season of Beautiful – The Carole King Musical sold out months prior to opening.
So beg, borrow, or steal your way in, or prepare to live with the regret of missing one of 2020’s best local productions; a big, but easy call to make so early in the year!Paul RoddaThe Barefoot Review
”When the professional Adelaide season of Beautiful - The Carole King Musical was cancelled due to unforeseen circumstances, it was most unfortunate. It made sense therefore that Adelaide based theatre company Davine productions would secure the rights for the South Australian premiere, continuing with their tradition of mounting successful award-winning South Australian premieres such as Xanadu (2014), The Light in the Piazza (2016), Violet the Musical (2017) and most recently, Judge Jackie (2019). It is highly likely that this production of Beautiful will also win an award to add to this list, as it another fantastic and Davine production (pun intended).
Beautiful is a jukebox musical with a book by Douglas McGrath, which uses songs written by Carole King and Gerry Goffin and Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, to tell the true story of legendary singer-songwriter Carole King, who collaborated with husband Gerry Goffin and developed a friendship with Grammy-winning songwriters Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann, seeing her quickly rising to fame and writing and selling several chart-topping hits, with the Tapestry album selling 25 million copies.
To tell such a story effectively relies on an efficient production team and cast, and on this occasion, the team which was assembled was an excellent one. Specifically, while musical director Peter Johns' thirteen piece orchestra sounded polished and in tune, as did the vocals of the actors, director David Gauci ensured that the actors portrayed their characters effectively and conveyed their thoughts and emotions realistically.
Though every actor gave an excellent performance, some actors, in particular, stood out from the rest. Maya Miller was confident and had beautiful vocals as Cynthia Weil, Carly Meakin showed soaring vocals in Uptown, Trevor Anderson as Gerry Goffin conveyed well Goffin's severe emotional stress and descent into a nervous breakdown, but it was undoubtedly Jemma McCulloch in the coveted role of Carole King, who truly shone and gave a faultless and sublime performance which was truly mesmerising and if you'll pardon the pun, beautiful. McCulloch had an exceptional stage presence and demonstrated confidence on stage, delivering dialogue with conviction and conveying well the different feelings and emotions King feels throughout the story, particularly during the difficult time she had with her husband Gerry. McCulloch's professional training in musical theatre is most obvious, and one could be excused for thinking that she had been flown directly over from Broadway, to perform in this show.
Besides the acting, the production elements of this show were also most commendable.
Set design by David Gauci, though simple, was functional and effective, maximising the performance space by using both the elevated stage and floor space available to him. This allowed for the opportunity to change the set on the elevated stage, concealed by the curtain, while the performance continued on the floor level. Moreover, the set on the floor level also featured two large LED screens either side of the stage, which featured multimedia images (designed by Matt Ralph) to reflect various locations, and these were able to be changed quickly, ensuring that scene and location changes were smooth and effective.
Costumes by Louise Watkins were gorgeous, featuring sequined dresses and suits, and the coloured silk dresses for The Shirelles and swish suit and tie outfits for The Drifters and The Righteous Brothers, were appropriate and reflective of the fashion of the period. Similarly, mention must also be made of the myriad of various shapes and colours of wigs used, which were also relevant to the period, and at times, it was difficult to distinguish between real hair and a wig.
Still to this day, I am unsure why the Adelaide season of Beautiful was cancelled, and this will forever remain a mystery for me. What is known, however, is that this production ensured that Adelaide didn't miss out on hearing the inspirational life story of one of the most influential singer-songwriters of the 1960s, and revealed why her music remains popular today. King's life will still be remembered for many years to come, and such is the case also with this production, may it be another award-winning musical for Davine, one which leaves the audience with a memory to last for many years to come.Thomas DayWeekend Notes
Presented by Davine Productions
David Gauci, producer/director, has gained an impressive reputation and many awards for his company’s cutting-edge modern music theatre. After 25 years writing/directing his own shows and touring in musicals, Gauci has won or been nominated for many Fringe awards and received critical acclaim. Davine Productions is celebrating its tenth Fringe with this Adelaide premiere of Beautiful: The Carole King Musical. A talented cast of 22 will showcase some of South Australia’s top musical talent.
“Mr Gauci and his ensemble’s works have been produced and performed with such a high standard of excellence in all areas” Tony Knight, Stage Whispers.
“David Gauci’s production company has a strong pedigree for putting on high-quality musicals not seen before in Adelaide.” Nathan Quadrio, Glam Adelaide.