Reviewed by Dianne Hartley
This show which has been playing around the country since the early 90’s follows brother and sister duo The Carpenters and their highly successful 14 years in the music industry which included 11 albums, 31 singles, five television specials, and a short-lived television series. Karen is played by Claire Furley accompanied by pianist Phil Aldridge (who is also the artistic director) and both are amazingly talented singers.
The story concentrates on Karen Carpenter who tragically died at the young age of 32, her body destroyed by anorexia. Early in her life she had to cope with her mother’s preference for her brother Richard who was interested in music from an early age unlike Karen who didn’t show much interest herself until she was 14. Once engaged in music Karen’s talent and unique vocals soon became apparent but the psychological effects of her younger years cause issues all through her troubled life.
The show began with the beautiful ‘We’ve Only Just Begun’ and I was surprised by how much Claire’s vocals sounded like Karen. This was followed by ‘Please Mr Postman’ then ‘Top of the World’ and the hits just continued. I particularly enjoyed their version of ‘Ticket to Ride’ by The Beatles. Phil with his charisma and charm kept the audience informed with little snippets of information before each song along with a slideshow and video clips throughout the show.
The backing musicians – drummer, guitarist, bassist along with the excellent saxophonist, violinist and oboe player all complimented the performance and on occasion were able to show how amazingly talented they all are.
The 2nd half of the show started with ‘Jambalaya’ and Phil and Claire got the crowd singing along with them. When introducing ‘(They long to be) Close to You’ Phil explained that the writer Burt Bacharach, Dionne Warwick and Dusty Springfield had all released the song with no success until Richard worked his magic and rearranged the song for Karen and the rest is history. He also quipped that any fans of The Simpsons (there were not that many in the slightly older audience!) would remember that the song by The Carpenters was playing when Marge first met Homer!
As the hits continued with ‘Rainy Days and Mondays’ ‘Yesterday Once More’, I’d forgotten how many hits they’d had and they just kept coming! The show ended with a medley of the songs that hadn’t already been packed into this fabulous show which was a wonderful reminiscing experience for me as The Carpenters were never off the radio through the majority of my teens.
They promised to return next year and I would highly recommend this wonderful step back in time.
Before the show and during the interval there is access to two bars in the Charter Theatre which is the perfect size for that intimate gig experience plus the acoustics are brilliant.
Best place to park for any event at Preston Guild Hall is on the recently refurbished Bus Station which recently won an award for being ranked as one of the better car parks in UK. The parking is £3.20 (2-4 hrs) or £4.00 (up to 12 hrs) if you wish to go for a meal at one of Preston’s constantly growing number of places to eat. Access to the Guildhall is via the 1st floor and is all undercover.
The Carpenters Story is currently on tour around the UK, for more information and tour dates visit carpentersstory.com.
For other shows at the Charter Theatre in Preston visit prestonguildhall.co.uk or call the box office on 01772 804444.
The Guild Hall & Charter Theatre, Lancaster Road, Preston, PR1 1HT | 01772 80444