Monday, January 13, 2014

Beautiful: The Carole King Musical

Bio-musical Beautiful: The Carole King Musical tells the story of the life and career of legendary singer-songwriter Carole King leading up to the release of her groundbreaking album Tapestry. Having been raised by a divorced mother, Carole (then) Klein entered college at age 16 to study for a teaching degree. However, a talent for music brought her to the Brill Building where she sold her first song and began a renowned career. After meeting and quickly falling for writer Gerry Goffin, the two teamed up to write some of the 1960's most famous songs, including "Will You Love Me Tomorrow," "Take Good Care of my Baby," and "The Locomotion." Their relationship progressed quickly; Carole soon found out she was pregnant and married Gerry at only 17 years old. As the pair's careers went steadily uphill, the romance began to falter. Gerry's adulterous ways and wavering mental health often left Carole alone with their two daughters. After divorcing Gerry in 1968, Carole used experience to inspired the songs that she went on to perform herself for the album Tapestry, which became the greatest selling album of all time, and earned four Grammy awards.

Onstage, King's life makes for the perfect jukebox-musical. Each song is more lively and colorful than the last. Derek McLane's scenic design is always moving, transforming from a Brooklyn apartment, to the offices and recording studios of the Brill Building, to the set of a Variety show. As each new song is written, the world changes into a colorful and energetic concert. With Peter Kaczorowski's rich light design, Alejo Vietti's versitile costume design, the production became an experience. Most notably, Josh Prince's choreography took the familiar, yet simple, steps of the 60's pop groups and put a fresh, modern spin on it.

As Carole King, Jessie Mueller is the "Natural Woman" for the role (pardon the pun). The quality of Mueller's voice matches King's distinct rasp so well you'd think it was the singer herself. She leads the production with an earnest humility that truly conveys the pain and strength of King. Jake Epstein, as Gerry Goffin, faded in and out onstage. Despite his smooth vocals, he clearly was not able to not quite keep up with the rest of the main cast.

There will always be a niche market for musicals such as these, the kind that can remind audiences of the memories of younger years associated with the already famous music. There wasn't a single song that didn't elicit murmurs of "Such a great song!" and humming along from the audience. Curtain call brought the entire audience to its feet, clapping and singing along with "I Feel the Earth Move." This is definitely the show you take your parents to when they're in town, and may even give Jersey Boys a run for its money in terms of popularity. Beautiful truly lives up to its name, and is a sight for all generations to enjoy.

Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, opened January 12 at the Stephen Sondheim Theatre. 

Photos By:  Joan Marcus
Review By: Kelcie Kosberg

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