Sunday, July 20, 2014
Beautiful - The Carole King Musical
Back in their day, the songwriters were not well known and didn't perform at all (today some songwriters are actually performance artists in their own right, others remain behind the scenes like these folks). Right from the start we learn that Carole never wanted to be a performer -it was not her dream. We learn that it is something that came about after being married, having two kids and divorcing and moving to California. It evolved as she "grew up" and "found her own voice".
Jessie Mueller (Carole King) does a wonderful job at transforming from a young, enthusiastic Jesish kid from Brooklyn who skipped two grades and started writing music - to a mature, full-voiced, emotional singer making her debut record and debut concert at Carnegie Hall. Jake Epstein (Gerry Goffin) plays her obviously talented, very good looking, and ultimately mentally unstable boyfriend come husband and writing partner (he wrote the lyrics and she wrote the music). At my performance, the knock-out understudy, Sara King, played Cynthia Weil and she fit the part like a glove! Jarrod Spector rounded out the competing songster couple as hypochondriac funny-man Barry Mann.
From a construction standpoint, the show presents itself by showing you the songs as envisioned by the writers as they are under development (you get a tease of the melody and lyrics to remind you they wrote it) - and then you get treated to groups of actors and singers such as The Drifters, The Shirelles, The Righteous Brothers and Little Eva actually performing the hits including Will You Love Me Tomorrow, The Locomotion, Up on the Roof, and Some Kind of Wonderful. Very effective for a toe-tapping Broadway musical. Of course you have to wait till the end to hear Carole in her own voice belt out You've Got a Friend, Will you Love me Tomorrow, Natural Woman, and, of course, the titular number, Beautiful.
The show portrays Carol as an ordinary Jewish woman who found herself thrown into a man's world of music, songwriting, and business and she really just wanted to be a stay-at-home mom to her kids and write her songs. Little did she know life would throw her a curve ball and thrust her (to our benefit) into the limelight where she got the opportunity to use her own voice to sing her own songs.
Heartwarming, entertaining, and triumphant are words that line up nicely with this show. I''m left wondering if Jessie Mueller will ride her Tony award winning performance out or we will see someone come in and take over the role on Broadway. We shall see.