Having my musical theater exposure begin with Nazis and more Nazis, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from Beautiful: The Carole King Musical. At the start, I couldn’t tell you which songs she wrote or sang, only that she had done both. I certainly couldn’t have told you what the musical was about but now I can, and I shall in the link below (Note: There will be spoilers).
The musical follows the life of Carol from when she was 16 through when she performed at Carnegie Hall, a pretty big deal in the American music world. You see her ups and downs, learn a bit about the songs she wrote, and see her transformation as a woman and musician. I think it was a very nice portrayal and a very interesting story: Julia Knitel knocked it out of the park with her portrayal of Carole, belting out some pretty soulful number while also playing piano. Her husband Gerry, played by Liam Tobin, also did a wonderful job. It was always tense when arguments would arise, or when promises were broken. The sets were also beautifully constructed: They had this retro-future backdrop that had old-fashioned radio tuners, wooden panels that looked like wiring, and acoustic guitars all embedded into it with backlights creating color and casting shadows. Very impressive work!
I never knew Carole was so involved in the music industry, particularly with musicians of color during an era before Civil Rights: The Drifters, The Shirelles, The Chiffons, and Little Eva, just to name a few. It was also fantastic to see the works of their writing rivals and best friends, Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann, such as On Broadway. It was also great to hear Carole’s work when she decided to move to LA and start singing her own songs: It’s Too Late, A Natural Woman, and Beautiful were all songs I’ve heard by her and numerous other singers (Paul Simon, for one, seems to love covering her songs) and greatly enjoyed. By the end, you’re ecstatic that Carole is playing her own music and setting her own path.
Overall, I would highly recommend this production of Beautiful: The Carole King Musical. Are there any favorite songs of yours that Carole helped create? Let me know in the comments!