Up On The Roof – The Carole King Songbook

Director: Elizma Badenhorst
Cast: Ashleigh Butcher (bass, guitar, ukelele), Louise Duhain (piano/keyboards), Angelica Hattingh (guitar), Sanli Jooste (cello), Neo Motaung (percussion) and Tiisetso Sefatsa (percussion)

Producer: VR Theatrical  

Cape Town- Theatre On The Bay, 1 Link Street, Camps Bay  

Date: October 5 – 21, 2023  
Show times: Tuesdays – Saturdays at 8pm with matiness on Saturdays at 3pm
Tickets:  R150 – R300 at Webtickets or contact Theatre On The Bay at (021) 438-3300/1

Running Time:  2 hours, inclusive of a 20 minute interval.   No age restriction.    

Scroll down for creative credits  

I love the music of Carole King. Her songs tend to make me go “ahhh”. I get goose bumps listening to her songs, particularly to her 1971 album, Tapestry, which is considered one of the best-selling albums of all time. The songs have become a soundtrack for many of us – emotionally conveying so much about life and its challenges, loss, grief, pain, love, friendship.  Walking into Theatre On The Bay, in Cape Town, Camps Bay to see Up On The Roof – The Carole King Songbook, and I went “ahhh” as I encountered the gorgeous set by Nadine Minnaar- a roof top garden – with macramé lanterns dangling from the ceiling, glowing in the luminescent space, carpets, couches; a piano. It is a stunningly beautiful set. I wanted to stay and sleep over on this roof – or better still – transplant it to my home. (POV: One can go up on stage, during interval and have a photo opportunity on the couch and hashtag it all over social media). Up On The Roof – The Carole King Songbook is a beautiful and wistful show. It is a show which taps into the deep emotional range of Carole King. Many of her songs veer to the dark side but joyfulness tends to push through. Consider: Beautiful (from Tapestry). Ahhh.

Rather than simply staging a tribute show to Carole King, director Elizma Badenhorst has conceptualised this homage on a rooftop garden- reminiscent of a New York roof garden. Six friends are up on the roof – contemplative and supporting each other. They entertain us with impressions of Carole King hits and lesser known songs. The friends  give us insights into Carole King’s life and career, her friendship with James Taylor; collaborations; including with ex-husband Gerry Goffin. They regale us with stories about artists and groups who have covered Carole King. The setting on the roof top, references Carole King’s hit song, Up On The Roof. She wrote the song with Goffin and it was recorded in 1962 by The Drifters. The lyrics are drenched with longing. The song is a call-out, to remove ourselves from the mess of life, go up on a roof and look down. Elevate beyond the world and its madness; talk to each other (put the phones away), be embraced by friendship, kindness and caring- breathe – and go ahhh.

Up On The Roof features an accomplished cast of women – lovely ensemble work – with each voice contributing to the tapestry of Carole King’s songs. There is no attempt to “be” Carole King- to try and create a facsimile of her. There are no diva moments. It is a gentle show, elegiac at times – beautiful music – on this beautiful roof top in a theatre, in Cape Town (the show will be staged in Johannesburg- November 1 – 26, 2023 – Pieter Toerien’s Montecasino Theatre). The artists (some play musical instruments) are accompanied on keys and percussion by the brilliant Wessel Odendaal. He is the musical director of the show and has arranged and orchestrated the songs.

And – ahhh the clothes- 70s thrift shop chic – flared jeans, dungarees, crochet, tassels, faux fur – all in vogue again. The vintage has been paired with a millennial vibe – platform sneakers. The wardrobe is like a bridge between the 70s and 80s and into our times. Wardrobe co-ordination is by Elizma Badenhorst- love the clothes. The beautiful roof top set, lighting, song selection, interpretation and wardrobe conjure up a vivid portrait of Carole King and the legacy of her work. Up On The Roof – The Carole King Songbook -is a show which will resonate with those who know the music and I think will delight and intrigue millennials who may have a POV limited knowledge of her music (beyond trending pop-ups on TikTok, Spotify, Gilmore Girls theme song, Where You Lead) and will hopefully inspire lyricists to write in the keys of life.

Rooftop refuge: Up On The Roof – The Carole King Songbook, staged by VR Theatrical (South Africa). Beautiful set by Nadine Minnaar- six friends gathered on a roof top (reminiscent of a New York roof garden), looking down on the people below and singing Carole King songs. Pic by Mark Wessels.
Up On The Roof – The Carole King Songbook

Creative credits  

Direction and concept – Elizma Badenhorst
Musical direction and orchestration – Wessel Odendaal
Scenic design – Nadine Minnaar
Wardrobe co-ordination – Elizma Badenhorst
Lighting design – Kieran McGregor  


Images of Up On The Roof – The Carole King Songbook, by Mark Wessels. Supplied.