A NATURAL WOMAN: Celebrating the music of Carole King

Circa One, Circa Theatre, 1 Taranaki St, Waterfront, Wellington

22/01/2022 - 19/02/2022

Theatre Royal, 78 Rutherford Street, Nelson

05/05/2023 - 05/05/2023

Te Raukura ki Kāpiti Theatre, Coastlands, 32 Raumati Rd, Raumati

06/05/2023 - 06/05/2023

Production Details

Ali Harper

Carole King – extraordinary, timeless, iconic!

Hailed as the greatest singer-songwriter when her landmark album Tapestry was released in 1971. Fifty years on, it’s timely that we come together and be wowed by the intensity and vigour of Carole King.

I Feel The Earth Move, It’s Too Late, So Far Away, (You make me feel like) A Natural Woman, Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow, Smackwater Jack, You’ve Got A Friend…

Prepare to be uplifted as you embark on a nostalgic musical ride with Ali Harper and her band featuring Nick Granville, Francis Meria, Scott Maynard and Frankie Leota.

If you loved Ali’s recent show at Circa, The Look of Love honouring Burt Bacharach as well as her other shows – Songs For Nobodies, A Doris Day Special, Legendary Divas, Bombshells and Tell Me On A Sunday – then you won’t want to miss A Natural Woman.

‘Ali Harper has created another musical love letter to an incredible songwriter.’ — Backstage

‘I can’t think of another performer I know whose presentations give me more pleasure than do those of Ali Harper’s, for her unbeatable combinations of artistry, energy and sheer charisma!’ — Middle C

‘How amazing is Ali Harper! At the end of the performance the packed audience jumped up to give her a well-deserved standing ovation.’ — Dom Post

Circa One
22 Jan – 19 Feb 2022
Preview 21 Jan
Tues – Thurs 6.30pm,
Fri – Sat 8pm,
Sun 4pm
$25 – $54

2023 Itinerary: All shows at 7:30pm

NELSON (Theatre Royal), Fri 5th May: https://www.theatreroyalnelson.co.nz/show/a-natural-woman-celebrating-the-music-of-carole-king/

KAPITI COAST (Te Raukura ki Kāpiti), Sat 6th May: https://www.eventfinda.co.nz/2023/a-natural-woman-celebrating-the-music-of-carole-king/paraparaumu

HASTINGS (Toitoi Opera House), Thu 18th May: https://www.eventfinda.co.nz/2023/a-natural-woman-celebrating-the-music-of-carole-king/hastings

HAMILTON (Clarence Street Theatre), Fri 19th May: https://premier.ticketek.co.nz/shows/show.aspx?sh=NATURAL23&v=HTT

NEW PLYMOUTH (Theatre Royal), Sat 20th May: https://premier.ticketek.co.nz/shows/show.aspx?sh=NATURAL23&v=NTLROYAL

INVERCARGILL (Civic Theatre), Fri 26th May: https://premier.ticketek.co.nz/shows/show.aspx?sh=NATURAL23&v=ICT

DUNEDIN (Regent Theatre), Sat 27th May: https://www.regenttheatre.co.nz/project/ali-harper-a-natural-woman-27-may-2023/

Prices $30-$55 (plus booking fees)

Ali Harper and her band featuring Nick Granville (guitar), Francis Meria (piano and backing vocals), Scott Maynard (bass and vocals), Doug Brush (percussion), and Frankie Leota (vocals)

Theatre , Musical ,

1hr 50 mins including 20 min interval

An accomplished actor and pitch-perfect singer with backing that delivers a tight, slick, professional show

Review by Steve La Hood 07th May 2023

Yes you are…
You’re beautiful – as you feel!

A very full house at Te Ruakura ki Kāpiti felt very beautiful tonight.

Silverhairs most of us – we knew all the words to all the songs, and before I even start this review, let me confess that Tapestry is the soundtrack to my young awakening, probably yours too, so it’s with both delight and confidence that I can say: Go see this show.

Ali Harper storms onto the stage in a floral number that Carole herself would have worn and the ‘Earth Moves Under Our Feet’. Boom. The audience is totally with her.

She’s huge. She doesn’t hold back. Whether the mic’s in the stand or her hand, whether she’s sitting or grooving, she’s belting out those familiar tunes and lyrics pitch-perfectly and enacting the emotions of the song with every word. She’s a diva, she’s Carole King.

It takes just one song for the audience to discover how tightly the band is playing. Francis Meria on piano and backing vocals is classy, jazzy, orchestral. Bass player Scott Maynard is like sooo mellow and he’s got a stunning voice too. Doug Brush plays melodies in percussion, his timing so deft, his touch so intimate… just lovely. Nick Granville brings another voice on guitar. He can be urgent or laid right back, his riffs drive the song or back-announce the chords – not showy, but quite brilliant.

Ali engages the audience in the life story of Carole. Doesn’t everybody know her Tin-Pan Alley roots as a mere teenager? Her marriages and her devotion to her children? Her terrible stage-fright? For each turning-point in Carole’s life, Ali selects and sings the song that takes us there. It’s simple. It works.

The thing is, Carole King wrote conversational lyrics about matters of the heart from a woman’s point of view and catchy tunes to match those lyrics. Ali sings the words as if she means them. That’s the trick. She’s an accomplished actor, a consummate performer. And she can sing.

So can her friend Frankie Leota, another powerful voice who brings a musical roundness to Ali and the band.

I’m still buzzing from the A Capella version of ‘Take Good Care of My Baby’. Ali and Scott and Francis in a harmony so strict and sweet it’s almost Cistercian. I’d never heard Streisand sing ‘Child of Mine’ but Frankie absolutely nails it. You can hear a pin drop in the audience.

What impresses me most is the discipline, the rehearsed and pin-point accuracy of the show. Ali has freedom to break the fourth wall and chat – as Ali Harper – to the audience, but around those few take-a-breath moments is a show: a very well put together production where everyone on stage knows exactly what they are doing at every second.

Tight, slick, professional. Worth every penny for a night of nostalgic entertainment.

Oddly enough – and I’m only speaking for me here – the grand finale of ‘You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman’ – is one of the few Carole songs I’ve grown not to love so much. Not so the audience around me. Tears are flowing. Hands waving in the darkness. Half-muted voices chanting that anthem. Huge applause of course.

Encore. Frankie and Ali sing ‘You’ve Got a Friend’. They sing it sotto voce because the audience has become a choir. I sing. You would. You won’t be able to stop yourself.

Go see this show.


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Music and banter to fill the soul and spread joy

Review by Melanie Stewart 06th May 2023

Ali Harper’s show, A Natural Women, showcases the music written by Carol King, her partner Gerry Goffin and other collaborators. She is accompanied by a four-piece band and performs a selection of the beloved hits written and sung by King and a series of songs written for others.

As a die-hard fan of Carol King from my youth I am a little apprehensive at attending a show celebrating her life and music. Will it live up to my expectations? Tapestry was one of my first albums, much loved but it hasn’t been played since the introduction of the CD. However, as Harper performs many of these classics the words unravel from the dark recesses of my brain and I find myself mouthing the words along with her. ‘I Feel The Earth Move’, ‘So Far Away’, ‘Tapestry’, ‘You’ve Got a Friend’ plus many others send me down reminiscence lane back to my youth.

Harper makes these songs her own with her stunning, pitch perfect voice. She is very ably accompanied by a talented band of musicians. Nick Granville, a long time friend of Harpers and a consummate performer, is strong on the guitar. Scott Maynard shows his versatility on both bass guitar and double bass and Doug Brush is the steady rhythm section. Francis Meria, on keyboard, consistently looks like he is having the best time of his life and plays like he was born to do it. Granville, Maynard, and Meria also play their part as backing vocalists providing perfect harmonies, blending beautifully with Harper’s powerful voice.

Frankie Leota, as a guest vocalist, is the icing on the cake for this show. Her beautiful resonant voice add life to Harper’s dynamic vocals and her rendition of ‘Child of Mine’, accompanied by Harper on keyboard, is a highlight.

Between songs Harper keeps up a light-hearted banter that gives us an insight into King’s life, her career, her personal life, her triumphs and her struggles. I was not aware of how many songs she wrote for other singers. James Taylor’s ‘Up on the Roof’, which was also released by The Drifters, is beautifully covered by Harper and the band, and Meria, Maynard and Harper sing Donny Osmond’s ‘Go Away Little Girl’, also a King/Goffin composition.

We were also given a glimpse into Harper’s life as she introduces us to her band members and tells us where they met, and I am sure many of us are now wondering if Frankie’s new grandchild has arrived yet. This show is one of those that fills my soul. Harper and her team use music and banter to spread joy. It reminds me why we so desperately need to keep the Arts alive in Aotearoa. Thankyou Ali and your team for a lovely night out.


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Towering performances across all the numbers

Review by Dave Smith 23rd Jan 2022

In my own tiny life two Carole King related incidents stand out from me. In the early sixties I heard ‘It Might As Well Rain Until September’.A budding pianist myself (soon to be nipped) I rushed out and for two English shillings bought the sheet music. Strangely, Bobby Vee was pictured on the cover. I tried to play the song and encountered stark musical complexity from a pop tune that, for godsakes, had emerged from latter day Tin Pan Alley. Carole was still in the early phase of her career but she was bafflingly smart.

Then a few years ago I managed to catch up with a real Carole King performance. She was by then practically a warm up act for Barry Gibb at the Mission Vineyards in Napier. Age had taken its toll. It seemed like I was watching an old lady picking her way through some Carole King songs. Too sad for words.

Now along comes the estimably talented Ali Harper and friends to give us an evening of Carole King at Circa. And here I encounter another baffling conundrum. Is this a musical show with background patter in a theatre or a theatrical event with a sincere musical tribute thrown in?  That may sound like quibbling but, as we all know, a filmed play does not amount to a great movie. Songs with biographical footnotes do not a theatrical event make.  

So early on in the night it seems plain that the music is going to be speaking for itself as the accompanying words are going to be a mite cheesy and clichéd. They are communicated in a loose and unfocussed way, not helped by the fuzzy sepia slides, showing such ephemeral matters as 70s hairstyles, projected onto a rumpled curtain at the back. At first, I rashly wonder if I will get through a night of this. Sure the songs are going to have the gorgeous structure that Carole gave them but the talk will be rather diffuse. A skilled writer is perhaps needed to mold this show into a powerful story with endless wow factors drawn from life; the difference between being very good and being just great.

Which is shame given that the subject, Carole, was a force of nature blessed with perfect pitch and an instinctive understanding of the aural art from the age of three, when she presented as a female Mozart in pigtails. So much more than mere dates of her many marriages and divorces and genuflections to the “raging” Vietnam War, drugs and the many social disruptions happening in the background during the 60s are needed to warp around this topic. Greater emphasis, say, on what drove Carole internally and enabled her to put the subservient male-dominated Tin Pan Alley behind her could have yielded something a bit deeper and better reveal the inner meanings of the songs.  (Even her legendary ‘Crying in the Rain’ had been gleefully commandeered by the Everlys while ‘I’m into something Good’ made superstars out of the near-talentless Herman’s Hermits. Was her onrushing solo career a case of don’t get mad, get even?)

But enough of that negativity. Whether it be theatre or talky pop concert this offering finally turns out a real treat. Ali is supported by a superb little band of musos. They help out with low key vocal backing and gamely manage to barbershop their way through ‘Take Good Care Of My Baby’ (another bouncy little hummer wasted on the pulseless Bobby Vee).

The ensemble comprises Nick Granville (guitar) Francis Meria (piano) with Scott Maynard (slap bass). All are top notch instrumentalists and contributed mightily. However, I must needs single out Mr Meria. Carole was, for all time, a devoted piano woman. The instrument is ubiquitous and is the pounding engine room of all her songs. Ali plays a bit but is not (yet) Carole King standard while Francis Meria plays a lot and is. Music simply pours out of him and his confident playing greatly enhances the dynamism and feel of this show.

Personal highlight number two is guest vocalist Frankie Leota. Ali competently sets up the songs to midway in the first half but from the moment Frankie hits the stage the entire show whizzes onto afterburner. It’s not that Frankie (also doing some neatly judged bongo work) takes over in any way. Rather, two voices/ two hearts and a tight band blend into music heaven. The audience from then on just laps it up – and rightly so.  

Ali is, one must say, extra good at getting the punters to sing along. She cannily uses, for example, a song from the distant past:‘Chains’. This is another early-days King offering that is deceptively simple to ingest. For singalong purpose it is but its lyrical concept, hammering the unlovely title to proclaim that human love can also be suffocating, was hugely innovative in its day. The Beatles used it on their first LP when they were introducing British ears weaned on the slack-jawed likes of Adam Faith to somewhat neglected but more meaningful American tunes. 

Joint renditions of ‘(You make me feel like) A Natural Woman’, ‘You’ve got a Friend’, ‘Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?’ ‘Smackwater Jack’ and ‘It’s too Late’ are warm, rounded, fulfilling and the sort of stuff they pay $150 a head to listen to across town. They reflect the impressive maturing of Carole’s work in the ’70s that delivered the dazzling album Tapestry.

Carole was never shallow but the depth of that landmark album stunned the world. (It is listed by Sean Egan in 100 Albums that changed the world. He pithily notes that “…it showed that rock could be contemplative, not callow, and encouraged women who had always imagined popular music was somehow the preserve of men to pick up a guitar and begin aiming for stardom”) 

Ali and her excellent team do immense justice to the many profoundly moving songs that make up Tapestry. By Ali doing them all, the richly mind-expanding world of the intensely modest Carol King gets laid out before us. It encompasses all that has gone before.

It is no exaggeration to say the team gives towering performances across all the numbers. If Carole herself, in the full flush of her powers, had sung them for us she would likely not have bettered what we saw and heard at Circa one balmy Saturday night in 2022. Nobody can possibly do more. And goodness, we do really need it right now. 


Editor January 25th, 2022

Here is Circa Theatre's 


Circa at Red 🔴 It’s a real privilege for us to continue to bring you great theatre under these circumstances. The safety and wellbeing of our patrons is our absolute priority. 

At Traffic Light Red Circa can continue to operate. All shows will go ahead as programmed with the new audience capacity limits.

The Box Office team is working to make sure each performance meets the physical distancing guidelines, which means your seats may be moved slightly after you make your booking to allow us to seat everyone safely. If this change affects you, we’ll be in touch to let you know. If you have any accessibility requirements that mean you need a seat in the front row or on an aisle, please contact the Box Office so we can make sure you’re sitting in the right place. Accessibility is a priority for us so please do not hesitate to get in touch on 04 801 7992 or circa@circa.co.nz.

Please be aware we are not printing tickets until the night of the performance due to the possibility of having to move bookings slightly to accommodate for social distancing. We will not be posting tickets out to patrons before the show. You can, however, pick up your tickets from the Box Office on the day of the performance.

Please remember that at any Traffic Light setting, we require all patrons over the age of 12 years and 3 months to present their My Vaccine Pass upon entry. At Red, face coverings are required at all times within the theatre building and you will also need to scan in with the NZ Covid Tracer app (or manual sign-in book) when you get here.

The Circa Restaurant & Bar will still be operating under Red and following the Seated, Separated, and Single Server protocol with a maximum capacity of 45 people per night. If you would like to secure your spot, please contact the Restaurant team on (04) 801 7996 to avoid disappointment on the night.

If you have not yet set up your My Vaccine Pass, please head to My Covid Record and request your pass. For more information and other ways to request your My Vaccine Pass go to How to Get My Vaccine Pass.  

Thanks for your support of live theatre at this time and we hope we will see you soon!

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