Talking Theatre: Bronté Barbé Discusses Beautiful - The Carole King Story - Part 1
Beautiful-The Carole King Storyreaches the end of its UK tour run when it reaches Bristol this April. Bronté Barbé will play Carole King and be joined by Kane Oliver Parry as King’s husband and song-writing partner ‘Gerry Goffin’, Amy Ellen Richardson as song-writer ‘Cynthia Weil’, Matthew Gonsalves as song-writer ‘Barry Mann’, Carol Royle as King’s mother ‘Genie Klein’ and Adam Howden as music publisher and producer ‘Donnie Kirshner’.
The musical tells the inspiring true story of King’s remarkable rise to stardom, from being part of a hit song writing 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.
Bronté was a finalist in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s BBC1 television series “Over the Rainbow” in 2010. Since then she has appeared on stage in both London’s West End and around the UK. Previous credits include “Cool Rider” in the West End and ‘Princess Fiona’ in the UK Tour of “Shrek -The Musical”. She most recently starred in “The Wild Party” at The Other Palace.
Bronté recently answered questions about the show
What are you most enjoying about playing Carole King in the UK tour of Beautiful: The Carole King Story?
The songs! The music is amazing; it’s just the best. I haven’t played a part like this in my career so far. I also love how everyone in the company on tour with us is so nice; it’s a big family feel, which is lovely.
Have you always wanted to be on stage and had the performing bug?
Yes absolutely I have. My mum’s always performed – she’s done a lot of amateur dramatics and my Auntie is a singer so it was always in the family. I first started dancing when I was three in baby ballet, and I took dance lessons for years and years but I didn’t actually want to be a dancer. In fact I was always singing, and I think my Mum’s told me that I would be in the park and singing The Little Mermaid to other kids on the swings!
I also used to sing Titanic down the phone to my Grandma and she used to cry, all that sort of thing! So yes, I’ve always wanted to perform really. I started doing drama at a young age and doing shows with my Mum where I would play the child and things like that. There’s nothing else I’ve wanted to do really, I’ve been so firm and set on it. The first time I was on stage was when I played the littlest angel in the Nativity play at primary school, and I’ve loved it ever since.
Were you familiar with Carole King’s work prior to joining the show?
Yeah I was. I’ve had Tapestry for years actually. When I first got a record player I bought it because my Mum said, “You have to get this album its amazing”, but I didn’t realise until listening to it just how many songs that I already knew were actually written by Carole King. Then I saw the show in the West End and realised there are loads and loads of songs I was pleasantly surprised to know, but had no idea were written by her. So many of her songs have filtered into my head without me knowing through the TV or radio.
Was there something in particular that drew you to the role of Carole King, or do you identify with her at all?
Totally, she is as determined, particularly as a woman starting out in the time she did, working in the industry she did. She knew what she wanted, so worked hard and went out and got it, which makes her very inspirational. However, she is also a very relatable character I think.
What kind of differences did you encounter in developing your performance of a real person rather than a fictional character?
It was all very different to anything I’ve ever done before. I was listening to her music constantly obviously, but I didn’t want to do an impression. I wanted to work on an interpretation of her because there’s no way to impersonate her, she’s so iconic and her sound is so lodged in people’s minds. So I wanted to stay as true to her as possible but without doing an impression. Obviously there was the accent – trying to perfect her speaking voice and getting it as close as I could. I constantly watch videos to try and keep it fresh and accurate. I researched the time period and places she was working in at the time.
Whilst Carole King’s music will be familiar to many people, her life story may not be. What do you think makes it so engaging and perfect for the stage?
I think because it’s so relatable really. Everybody knows a Carole essentially, or is a Carole maybe and wants things she wanted – like to have a family and be successful in her career. She never set out to become famous but her talent and ambition meant that whilst she might be quite ordinary in some ways, she has an extraordinary story. There’s a big draw to it.
- Beautiful – The Carole King Story plays Bristol Hippodrome from April 3 – April 7. For times and availability visit www.atgtickets.com/venues/bristol-hippodrome
- Read the second part of this interview with Bronté Barbé tomorrow.
- Review of Beautiful - The Carole King Musical