That performance in King Charles III is a world away from her portrayal of Carole King – the multi award-winning, Brooklyn-raised, Jewish singer-songwriter whose 1971 album Tapestry topped Billboard for months.
Although she’s the focal point of this Broadway success – it follows her career from aspiring sixteen year-old to divorced mother of two appearing solo at Carnegie Hall – this juke-box bio-musical also recreates the vibrant creative atmosphere of the early 60’s. King’s personal life (or at least what we’re told of it) doesn’t come across as particularly exciting, but writer Douglas McGrath neatly incorporates full length versions of a selection of her hits, plus snippets of several other chart–toppers of the era – not to mention songs penned by friends and competitive fellow writing team Cynthia Weil (a lively Lorna Want) and Barry Mann.
And there’s a lot to choose from. With Gerry Goffin (her teenage love who became her moody, philandering first husband) King was responsible for hits recorded by the Shirelles (Will You Love Me Tomorrow) and the Drifters (Up on the Roof) – both delivered here by a talented support cast. And Mann and Weil were the creative duo behind On Broadway and You’ve Lost that Lovin Feeling.
Those great songs ensure that it all makes for a nostalgically enjoyable evening – with a likeable Brayben making the most of her thinly sketched character, an old-fashioned girl with a hankering for the suburbs, who, by the end, blossoms into a radiant solo star. And her closing delivery of Beautiful makes one very glad indeed that King, despite her concerned mother’s entreaties, decided that the life of a teacher really wasn’t for her.
Aldwych, Aldwych WC2B 4DF
Tube Covent Garden/Charing Cross
Till 13 February 2016
£15 – £69.50 + premium seats