A Natural Woman: Celebrating The Music of Carole King
Producer: Ali Harper & Iain Cave (Ali-Cat Productions)
Circa Theatre; Circa One (January 19 – February 22)
Ali Harper has form with these shows. She takes a musician – be it singer (Doris Day) or writer (Burt Bacharach) and explores their best known material in a very user-friendly way; breaking it down for near-enough to first timers and never so patronising as to alienate the more knowledgeable fans. This is no mean feat. She imbues the performances with just enough biographical detail to make for an enjoyable thread.
Here she pays tribute to Carole King – so celebrating both singer and writer. King, famously, was a songwriter for hire first up. A hit machine with her husband Gerry Goffin. They pumped out songs in the 60s and then in 1971 King released Tapestry – a commercial and critical favourite. It features her versions of some of the songs she’d written in the 60s (Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow). It also features some songs that are best known for King’s vocals and playing (I Feel The Earth Move, So Far Away, It’s Too Late).
Harper’s charm and energy is enough to carry any of the shows she has producer and performed. She wins you over. She also, smartly, picks the right subjects. And Carole King’s music – spanning several generations – is always ripe for reappraisal, for celebration.
All of this could only work with the right kind of sympathetic band. And Nick Granville (guitar), Francis Meria (piano), Scott Maynard (bass) and Frankie Leota (vocals, percussion) are so perfectly capable of helping Harper to realise her goal here.
The energy sustains across both halves of the show. The hits continue to tumble. King’s story is interesting and the warmth and heart of her character comes out in the stories and performances that Harper offers.
The challenge now, with Covid restrictions, is for this season to continue with the smaller audiences that the numbers-cap dictates. Good on cast and crew for sticking with this brilliant show through trying times. Get along if you can. It’ll warm your heart.