This show takes audience members on a thoroughly entertaining and nostalgic journey through some of The Carpenters’ timeless hit songs.
It opens with video footage of fictional radio DJ Marshall John, of Eagle 109.4FM, setting the scene of the late 1960s/early 1970s.
Projected on to a large screen at the back of the stage, he talks of the Apollo 13 space mission, rock band The Beatles, US President Richard Nixon and, of course, The Carpenters, which is the cue for the show’s opening song, We’ve Only Just Begun.
Claire Furley impressed as the voice of Karen Carpenter and I was pleased to hear the same rich quality in her low range as the revered singer who was one half of the brother-sister duo who inspired the production.
Claire was supported by seven exceptionally talented musicians and special mention must go to Richard Pardy whose beautiful sax playing and ability to play multiple instruments, sometimes two at once, was a spectacle in itself - not surprising, perhaps, from someone who has toured with Westlife and performed with the likes of Amy Winehouse, Peter Andre, Vanessa Mae and Shirley Bassey.
Performing against a backdrop of Richard and Karen Carpenter photographs, pictures of their most well-known album covers (many recognisable to people in the audience) and other appropriate imagery, the show continued with its celebration of The Carpenters’ music and Richard’s ‘fantastic’ arrangement of songs.
From Top of the World, which had audience members clapping in time, to songs like Superstar and I Won’t Last a Day Without You, which sounded perfect within the brilliant acoustics of The Apex.
The Carpenters’ story was taken on further with Eagle DJ John alluding to Karen’s battle with anorexia by reporting on her being hospitalised due to a ‘mystery illness’.
But, having discharged herself from hospital, the audience learns that Karen has returned to the studio and recorded Now, which returns them once more to the musicians on stage and to a fantastic rendition of Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft, which concludes the first half.
Using Eagle DJ John to set the scene, tell snippets of the Carpenters’ story, inject a bit of humour and introduce many of the songs is something that works particularly well in this production, which moves with ease between the recorded footage and its live performances.
The tempo picked up in the second half of the show, which opened with Claire inviting the audience to sing along to Yesterday Once More.
Please Mr Postman, Jambalaya (On the Bayou), This Masquerade, The Carpenters’ first number one hit, (They Long To Be) Close To You, and Claire’s favourite Carpenter song, Desperado, also featured before a ‘get to know the band’ segment where each of the musicians was formally introduced and given the chance to perform a brief solo.
Claire returned for a medley of songs, which, much to my delight, included renditions of Rainy Days and Mondays, For All We Know, Hurting Each Other and Solitaire, before bringing to show to a close with Goodbye To Love.
The Carpenters Story is a wonderfully well-structured and expertly executed production which offers audience members a gentle but enjoyable trip down memory lane. I cant imagine any Carpenters fan not enjoying it.