BRONTE Barbé hadn’t really listened to the songs of Carole King until she bought a record player.

“When I got the record player four or five years ago, my mum said I had to buy the Carole King album Tapestry, so I did and I just fell in love with it,” said Bronté, who next week stars in Beautiful: The Carole King Musical at Manchester’s Palace Theatre.

The musical tells the story of the songwriting partnership of Carole and her husband Gerry Goffin, her relationship with fellow writers and best friends Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann and her rise as a solo artist.

It is packed with classic songs including (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman, Take Good Care of My Baby and Up on the Roof.

“When the auditions came around I initially thought I’d go for the part of Cynthia,” said Bronté. “But then I just thought I might as well try for Carole.

“The role is just so epic, I never thought it would be an option for me. But I got it, it’s mad.”

Although packed with hit numbers Bronté describes the show as “a play with song”.

“There is such a great story behind it,” she said. “Every character is constructed so fantastically.”

Bronté went to see the show in London’s West End before she auditioned and since then has continued to research the period when songwriters worked in New York’s Brill Building churning out hit after hit.

“It’s the start of rock and roll really,” she said. “I’ve read quite a few books on it and it’s so interesting. I’m constantly learning more and finding out new things.”

Beautiful has been touring the UK for the first time and Bronté is delighted that it will be in Manchester over Christmas.

“I can’t wait to be able to settle down in Manchester for a while,” she said. “It has definitely got a feelgood vibe and sends everybody out having had a good time. I like the fact that it offers something that little bit different for Christmas.”

Although getting rave reviews for her performance, Bronté has stayed clear of trying to do an impression of Carole King.

“I always say it’s an interpretation,” she said. “There is no way to match Carole King. How would I possibly do that?

“What we’d like to happen is for the audience to come and watch and maybe leave thinking I sound a bit like her but it’s important to deliver her story and the music in the best way that we can.”

As well as singing and writing, Carole King is also a fantastic piano player which initially presented Bronté with a challenge.

“My piano playing isn’t that good,” she said. “I could sort of bash my way through a melody and I even started to teach myself to try and play the songs. But I have to say we do cheat on stage.

“The musical director is actually playing the piano off stage and I pretend to play. It’s really difficult. We had lots of sessions with me working with him before it all finally clicked.”

Playing Carole King is all a far cry from Bronté’s last major role - Princess Fiona in the musical Shrek.

“I did love Shrek but this is a very grown up part,” she said. “Being able to sing great pop songs every night is so rewarding - and there’s no green paint!”

Originally from Macclesfield, the Manchester run means Bronté will, when she’s not working, be able to spend Christmas at home.

“I can't wait to be there with my family and my dog,” she said. “It’s the perfect venue for me to be for Christmas.”

Beautiful: the Carole King Musical, Palace Theatre, Manchester, Tuesday, December 12 to Saturday, January 6. Details from 0844 871 3019 or