Ellie Kurttz

White Light Provides Beautiful Light for UK Tour

Beautiful – The Carole King Musical tells the story of the life of singer-songwriter Carole King, who wrote some of the biggest hits of all time for some of the greatest artists, ranging from The Drifters to The Shirlees to Aretha Franklin, as well as became a superstar in her own right. The show originally ran on Broadway in 2014, followed by a West End run a year later; with both productions receiving Tony and Olivier Awards. It is now back for a brand-new UK touring production and features a lighting design by Ben Cracknell, who approached WL to provide his lighting rig.  






Featuring classic hits such as ‘It Might As Well Rain Until September, Up on the Roof, The Locomotion’, coupled with a story about a young girl finally finding her own voice and stepping into the limelight, it’s no surprise that Beautiful has become one of the most popular musicals of modern times. So how does a designer like Ben approach such a well-known show with a fresh pair of eyes? He explains: “I’d been fortunate to see the original Broadway production back when it was in London several years ago. One big difference which influenced our take, led by our wonderful director Nikolai Foster, was that the cast was made up of actor/musicians performing all the songs themselves. As such, this mean that there was no separate band and everything came from them which really gave the entire production a fresh and youthful approach. There’s something really cool about these characters, mainly songwriters, all performing the songs they are writing. In the script 1650 Broadway Studio is described as a music factory and the honesty of our young cast making the music in front of your eyes is really exciting”. 






Knowing that this latest production of Beautiful was going to be significantly different to the previous versions, was there a particular feel or look that Ben had to achieve? He answers: “Gig Theatre is the phrase Nikolai approached me with. He wanted very much an “unplugged” feel, something that was raw, visceral and bold. Frankie Bradshaw’s design strips the set back to the theatre walls and we see all the rigging and lights which was massively exciting for me. The lighting rig itself drops in low to create the ceiling of the studios as well as towering high for the more epic concert moments. As such, the lighting equipment actually became very much part of the design visual!”. 











With this in mind, Ben then approached the Hire team at WL to draw on the equipment that would fufil his specific requirements. He comments: “As those who’ve seen the show will know, I drew on a lot of Par Cans! In particular, Source Four Pars. A ceiling of wide Source Four Pars dropped in low in order to create the ceiling for the scenes within studios, offices, etc. There is an optimistic warmth as well as a rawness that can be gained from incandescent light which I wanted to use throughout the production. Equally I could rake the heights of these bars to create a towering bank of lights for the concert moments. 






He adds: “I also drew on some TW1s along with some Viper Performances and DX’s to cut against with cold white. I wanted the main rig to be predominantly incandescent to contrast against more steely daylight colours that lit up the rigging and stage house”. 






With this being a touring production, the logistics of taking a show on the road obviously had some influence on Ben’s design. He explains: “Of course, efficiency of design was a factor in creating a design that could tour. Not masking the set and therefore revealing the stage houses was an exciting prospect but I needed to consider so many differing shapes and sizes of stage and how I would light them. I settled on a handful of Viper DX washes to achieve this – three of which were deployed high overhead on the edges of the theatre’s grid to blast down through all the fly bars and two on the floor in the rear corners to cut back through it all. This not only lit up the space with minimal kit but in turn created some epic shadows using the rigging as the world’s largest gobo!” 






Beautiful continues its UK tour in August when it arrives at the Eastbourne Congress Theatre. It will then continue travelling the rest of the UK, visiting venues until November 2022. More information can be found here: https://beautifulmusical.co.uk/ 






Ben concludes: “This was a brilliant show to be a part of and we’ve been delighted with the audience’s responses up and down the country. I’d like to say a big thanks to the WL team as well as my Programmer Liam Jones, Prod LX Sonic Harrison, Touring LX Team Liam Wise & Nicola Crawford along with Jonny Laidlow and the Curve Electrics Team for all their support”. 





Director : Nikolai Foster
Choreographer : Leah Hill
Design : Frankie Bradshaw
Costume : Edd Hingley
Lighting : Ben Cracknell
Sound : Tom Marshall










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