The jukebox musical is a tried and true way to get toes tapping and fingers snapping in an audience full of people that know they’re in for a good time and Beautiful: The Carole King Musical doesn’t disappoint in that regard. The story is book-ended by King (Abby Mueller) playing Carnegie Hall in the early 1970’s during the success of her mega selling, award winning, landmark album Tapestry that made her a solo pop star after years as half of a hit making writing team with her then husband Gerry Goffin (Liam Tobin). At the tender age of sixteen, after skipping two grades in grammar school, King was a freshman at Queens College where she met Goffin, a Chemistry major with a passion for play writing. After a brief courtship, the two began dating and he became the lyricist to her composer. By age 17 she was pregnant and they were married. The two had their first smash with The Drifters “Some Kind of Wonderful,” their first #1 hit with the Shirelles’s timeless classic “Will You Love Me Tomorrow” and continued with a string of hits stretching throughout the 60’s. Also, in the songwriting camp at their record label were composer Barry Mann (Ben Fankhauser) and lyricist Cynthia Weil (Becky Gulsvig), another hit making songwriting team and good friends to King and Goffin. Both couples have ups and downs in their relationships, Cynthia continues to decline Barry’s marriage offers which is played mostly for laughs as is Barry’s hypochondria, but the dramatic heft comes from Gerry’s increasingly erratic behavior that threatens his and King’s marriage.
Throughout the show the the scenes are punctuated with the numerous hits penned by both songwriting duos. Barry and Cynthia’s “Uptown”, “On Broadway” and “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin'” all get glossy renditions with slick choreography by Josh Prince and are fabulously executed by the actors portraying The Drifters (Josh A. Dawson, Paris Nix, Jay McKenzie and Noah J. Ricketts) among others, while The Chiffons, lead by Janelle Woods (Rebecca E. Covington) provided an elegant rendition of King and Goffin’s “One Fine Day” and Little Eva (Ashley Blanchet) performs their “Locomotion” as a bouncy bop illustrating how the infectious gem continues to get covered decades later. Towards the latter part of the show King digs into her self penned Tapestry singles like “It’s Too Late” and “You’ve Got a Friend” and Mueller shows off her warm vocals to the audience’s delight.
Beautiful is great introduction to the American popular song book of the early rock era focusing on some of its best and most prolific songwriters. The show isn’t reinventing the wheel but you’ll definitely have a good time.
Beautiful: The Carole King Musical is playing at The Pantages Theater in Hollywood until July 17, 2016.
Marques Wayne has been a writer/ reviewer for Pop Culture Beast since 2011.
In addition to studying Film Production and Screenwriting at NYU's Tisch School of the Arts and Los Angeles Valley College respectively, he is also co-founder of Paige9 Publishing, home of horror fiction author Pheare Alexander.