A woman who was taken to the Palace Theatre as a child is going back there for the festive season. But this time she’ll be on stage playing the lead role in the acclaimed show Beautiful–The Carole King Musical which opens next week.
“I can’t wait to open in Manchester,” says Bronté Barbé. “I’m very excited. And it’s opening on my birthday. I’ve got quite a lot of family in that night and I think as a cast we’re going birthday bowling. It’s very important for me to be home this year. I couldn’t believe my luck when I saw we were in Manchester.”
The Macclesfield girl with the beautiful voice was a finalist in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s BBC1 television series Over The Rainbow in 2010. Now she’s making a name for herself in the world of musical theatre, with credits including Cool Rider in the West End and Princess Fiona in the UK Tour of Shrek – The Musical.
The award-winning Beautiful–The Carole King Musical tells the inspirational real-life story of the hugely talented American singer-songwriter through some of her stellar hits.
She wrote the soundtrack to a generation, including one of the best-selling albums of all time, Tapestry, and countless classics such as (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman; Take Good Care of My Baby; You’ve Got a Friend; It Might as Well Rain Until September; Up on the Roof; and The Locomotion.
The show received its Broadway premiere in January 2014 where it continues to play to packed houses.
The London production ended a triumphant two-and-a-half-year run at the Aldwych in August. The current UK tour is making Manchester its base for Christmas 2017.
Bronte says she knew very little about Carole King before getting the role in Beautiful.
“I had Tapestry on vinyl for a few years and loved it. My mum told me to get it and it’s wonderful. The amount of feeling in it. But I didn’t realise until I saw the show how much Carole King had written, all these songs, and how much I knew them. They’re ingrained in you, they’re all just in there.”
How did she prepare for playing the part? “I did a mass of research. I had a list as long as my arm. I read her autobiography, and also another book which was really amazing, about people like Carole King and Janis Joplin, which was very raw, whereas the autobiography comes from a different angle.
“There’s so much on YouTube too, you could watch her for 24 hours a day and never see the same thing.”
There are so many great songs in the show. What’s her favourite?
“Beautiful, without a shadow of a doubt. I love Natural Woman and You’ve Got a Friend. But Beautiful is ridiculous. I’ve never felt anything like it, it’s crazy. The words are so amazing and it’s such a gratifying moment. It’s a great song and I can completely relate to it. It’s a great way to end the show.”
So what can Manchester audiences expect if they come and see the show?
“I just hope they’re going to love it. It’s so full of heart and unique in that you know every single song without trying. It’s nostalgic.
“A woman came up to one of the guys in the cast and said she loved The Locomotion because she remembered dancing to that with her fiancé when she was 18. It’s wonderful to hear the stories. Also, it reaches out to audiences who might not get to go to London. And it ends on such a high. Everyone is on their feet.”
Beautiful – The Carole King Musical opens at the Palace Theatre on Tuesday 12 December and runs through to 6 January 2018. Tickets from £15.50. Box Office: 0844 871 3019. Booking/transaction fee applies.