Davine Productions
Star Theatres
Until 29 Feb 2020

Review by Nikki Gaertner

“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.