Beautiful in San Francisco

Younger Brother
Broadway Star
joined:8/27/12
Beautiful in San Francisco
Posted: 9/24/13 at 10:55am
Anybody going to see the first preview of Beautiful in San Francisco tonight? Very interested to see how it works :)
broadwaybelter
Broadway Legend
joined:11/26/04
Beautiful in San Francisco
Posted: 9/24/13 at 11:41am
I attended the final dress last night. Jessie Mueller shines in this role. Every time she is onstage, the show takes off. Unfortunately, for a Carole King musical, the songs almost overshadow the woman herself. As for the structure of the show, there is a great deal to figure out. I won't divulge too much, as it wasn't a public performance, but, there are some genuinely strong moments.
Jungle Red
Broadway Legend
joined:8/13/12
Beautiful in San Francisco
Posted: 9/24/13 at 11:50am
An old coworker saw it last night. Here's what she said:

"Beautiful the Carole King Musical was great! The set is technically beautiful and has a great cast to match! Go see it SF! Jessie Mueller was wonderful as Carole King!"
"Bill Clinton is the ultimate whore! He stole Madonna's crown." -Jim Colyer, on 10/29/2012
dave1606
Broadway Star
joined:12/8/07
Beautiful in San Francisco
Posted: 9/24/13 at 11:52am
I am going Sunday night and looking forward to it! will report back. My first trip to San Francisco too! (was going unrelated, but getting to see this early was an added bonus!) I am taking a non-theater friend so I hope he enjoys it.
ACL2006
Broadway Legend
joined:2/11/06
Beautiful in San Francisco
Posted: 9/24/13 at 12:11pm
here's a very quick audio preview of Beautiful. Don't get too excited, it's only a minute long.


Musical Preview of Beautiful: The Carole King Musical with Jessie Mueller (Audio)
A Chorus Line played its final Broadway performance on August 17, 2008. The tour played its final performance on August 21, 2011. A new non-equity tour started in October 2012 played its final performance on March 23, 2013.
macnyc
Broadway Legend
joined:7/26/08
Beautiful in San Francisco
Posted: 9/24/13 at 04:39pm
It's kind of odd to hear "Carole King" singing in a different voice, but I'm going to keep an open mind!
I look forward to hearing more comments from San Francisco.
Younger Brother
Broadway Star
joined:8/27/12
Beautiful in San Francisco
Posted: 9/24/13 at 04:43pm
Who is that singing "Will you still love me tomorrow?"
Broadwaystar2
Stand-by
joined:9/4/13
Beautiful in San Francisco
Posted: 9/24/13 at 05:20pm
Just to be clear Carole King is NOT singing all of her own songs. She wrote for many artists and groups who sing her songs in the show. This is not a concert style show. So the Shirelles sing some of the songs she wrote for them.
4getmenot
Chorus Member
joined:3/2/08
Beautiful in San Francisco
Posted: 9/25/13 at 05:47am
Just got back from the first show.
To answer the previous question, Carole King sings a soulful ballady arrangement of Will you Love Me Tomorrow, with Gerry Goffen joining in for a few bars. And then the shirrelles do the presumably original version.
Here is my mini-review (may contain spoilers) :
I didn't know any Carole king songs going in, they were a little outside my age range. The only exception was "Natural Woman" only because it's been covered to death by singing competitions/ Demi Lovato and the like. I would say I liked half the songs. But the (much older) audience around me were raving about the songs taking them back to their youth, etc, etc.
The book was much weaker than the book from Jersey Boys. The "plot", and especially some of the humor felt a little cliche and gratuitous. The guy next to me was alot harsher, he called it very soap opera-like. I also wondered how true to life Gerry, Goffen's depiction was. At first, I assumed that, because the true life Goffen had to release his songs to the musical, he was shown to be more sympathetic/likable than he was. But I took a quick peek at Wikipedia/People Magazine at intermission and got the sense that the show actually played up on his mistakes for dramatic effect.
In terms of the acting. Jessie Mueller's singing voice was gorgeous, there was definitely a shift from early in the show when Carole King was still doing her songwriting thing to later on when she became a full-fledged performer. After checking some youtube videos of Carole King, I can say that Jessie Mueller got some of the mannerisms and nuances spot on. Jake Epstein was the weakest out of the 4 leads. I thought he didn't have any chemistry with the leading lady. He had a minor trip with one of the rotating set pieces. He also stumbled delivery wise in a few places. In one case, it made what was supposed to be a funny line unfunny. In the other cases, it took away from the emotional power of the scene. Not sure whether these imperfections are to be expected for a preview performance. Based on his previous shows, his voice is supposed to be beautiful but the part here didn't have alot of singing. Anika Larsen and Jarod Spector were adorable. The comedic timing was there, so was the on stage chemistry. For me, they were actually the standouts in the show and provided the emotional high's that I think some of the Carole King character were supposed to provide. I think the writers did a good job with the Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann characters.
Overall, I went and saw it because I wanted to get in on the very first show of a pre-Broadway engagement. I was moderately impressed, but I wouldn't say I came away moved by the show. Not sure how this is going to fare on Broadway.



Updated On: 9/25/13 at 05:47 AM
macnyc
Broadway Legend
joined:7/26/08
Beautiful in San Francisco
Posted: 9/26/13 at 11:45am
Thanks for your comments! Has anyone else been able to attend the San Francisco tryout? I'm eager to hear how it's going.

Updated On: 9/27/13 at 11:45 AM
winston89
Broadway Legend
joined:6/18/06
Beautiful in San Francisco
Posted: 9/26/13 at 02:27pm
As a fan of King's work, both her performing and songwriting, I do have one concern. And, that is having the out of town try out so close to the timing of the first preview of the Broadway production. If massive changes are needed (which I don't think they are based upon what I have read) then they won't have the time to put them into place, or if they do they would have very little time to do so.

Hopefully I'm wrong. But, this is a show that I've been looking forward to and want it to be the best that it can be by the time it hits Broadway.
"If you try to shag my husband while I am still alive, I will shove the art of motorcycle maintenance up your rancid little Cu**. That's a good dear" Tom Stoppard's Rock N Roll
Broadwaystar2
Stand-by
joined:9/4/13
Beautiful in San Francisco
Posted: 9/26/13 at 02:56pm
I saw it last night in second previews. And all I can say is. If they are in this great of shape already, by the time they get to Broadway it will be a GREAT contender for Best Musical. And once they get to NYC they will have nearly 2 months of previews to add any additional changes. So with that being said, I think they have a hit on their hands.
Anthony Fremont
Stand-by
joined:6/16/10
Beautiful in San Francisco
Posted: 9/26/13 at 03:51pm
So, all in all, Douglas McGrath's first outing is a welcome one?
LizzieCurry
Broadway Legend
joined:3/7/05
Beautiful in San Francisco
Posted: 10/1/13 at 09:32am
I saw Beautiful this weekend, and it is in WAY better shape than a lot of other pre-Broadway engagements I've seen. (And it hadn't even been a week of previews yet.) The dialogue is snappy and the score? Oh, the score! :) The comparisons to Jersey Boys are inevitable, but I think for any new show that focuses on a musician who's still alive will be compared to Jersey Boys.

As for the rest...

Act 1 is too long and needs more focus on Carole and Gerry rather than having them fade into the background about 3/4 of the way in. There was so much of the Shirelles and the Drifters that I started to not really care that we weren't being updated on Carole King; I wanted to know more about each member of the singing groups. Act 2 was more cohesive and tighter, which was welcome.

There are some jokes that will go over way better on Broadway than in SF. They're not falling flat in SF, but you can tell who it was written for.

There's an emotional scene in Act 2 that I'm not sure I want to get into the details of, but for a brief moment, the show almost crosses into grotesque while attempting to be poignant. It's very short, though. It didn't bother me but it might bother other people.

Anyway, the whole thing is still a very good production. The set is gorgeous -- so layered and intricate, but not overwhelming. The cast is top notch. I didn't have problems with anybody and they are all strong, especially Jessie Mueller. (The only [very minor] weakness I saw was that Jake Epstein's character is supposed to be kind of high-strung, but I couldn't tell if he was forgetting his lines or he was choosing to stammer through his lines as a character choice.)

The audience was really into it. There was a standing O from the orch (but not the balcony).

OK, let me know if anyone has questions, but they haven't even opened yet, so I'm sure there'll be a ton of changes coming up anyway.

"you know what I quit this board, you all can go **** yourselves." - thismyshow
Updated On: 10/1/13 at 09:32 AM
dave1606
Broadway Star
joined:12/8/07
Beautiful in San Francisco
Posted: 10/1/13 at 11:26am
I saw this Sunday Night and am now back from my trip. My immediate thoughts are that the show looks great. The set is beautiful despite some design elements that didn't work for me. It is also MASSIVE in that theater. It looked to me like TWO Jersey Boys sets could fit on that stage!

I loved how seamless the design was in terms of that it was always moving. We were never waiting for a scene change because everything would move seamlessly from scene to scene.

That said, this show's downfall is its book. It doesn't treat the relationship between Carole and her husband very seriously and because of that we don't care. They meet and agree to collaborate and then the next minute she is SPOILER pregnant?!!! One minute they are meeting in the Jake Epstein has a very under-written part, and definitely comes off as the weak link.

The first act is definitely overstuffed. The performances were good, but the show enters Baby Its You territory in more way than one. The dialogue gets completely abandoned by the end of the first act and it is just song after song and it started to feel closer to a tribute show than a musical. It also suffers from being so overstuffed with songs that you feel a bit cheated. You get into song for 30 seconds with Carole singing it at the piano and then hear the song again for 90 seconds by whoever it was sold to. Its a lot of ground to cover, and there definitely needs some trimming.

However, the show does move smoothly enough until it reaches its dramatic low-point late in Act 1 when there is I kid you not a STRIP POKER scene? Somebody call for re-writes ASAP! This was so ludicrous there was no way to take it seriously, and yet it is meant to be a real moment of conflict with the couples and it simply doesn't work.

Jessie Mueller sounds amazing, but I think everyone here knew that she would. I really love her voice. I wish that she got to sing more in the first act, but she was excellent with the songs in act 2.

Anika Larsen gives her character some spunk which I liked, but she really doesn't have much to work with, neither does the guy who played Barry Mann.

I certainly liked the LOOK of the show, and on the surface it definitely feels ready for Broadway. That said, I think the book needs some serious help before it gets there.


LizzieCurry
Broadway Legend
joined:3/7/05
Beautiful in San Francisco
Posted: 10/1/13 at 11:33am
Yeah, the Vermont vacation scene was uncomfortable and not for reasons it should be -- the conflict felt manufactured and it made me wonder how that had actually happened in real life (if it even had).

Interesting you think it looks massive in the theatre. I think that's the smallest SHN house. :) I was surprised how much room there was for the set to move horizontally during "Up On the Roof," though.
"you know what I quit this board, you all can go **** yourselves." - thismyshow
ChipR
Swing
joined:10/2/13
Beautiful in San Francisco
Posted: 10/2/13 at 12:13pm
Update for Dave: the guy who plays Barry Mann is Jarrod Spector, who played Frankie Valli here with the first nat'l tour, and later on Bway for 4 years. Thought both Anika and Jarrod were terrific with great chemistry.
Markus T Johnson
Swing
joined:10/2/13
Beautiful in San Francisco
Posted: 10/2/13 at 10:15pm
Saw it last week. It has potential to become the next Jersey Boys, but you could tell that it was still in development. The end of the first act was pretty sloppy, and some of the characters weren't fleshed out.




Marquee for the Curran
Updated On: 10/2/13 at 10:15 PM
Joviedamian
Broadway Star
joined:11/9/10
Beautiful in San Francisco
Posted: 10/4/13 at 02:58pm
I find it funny at that most here on this board found the poker scene to be out of place...here is one audience review who thought it was the best part of the show...

"Interesting that two biop musicals are in town. Janis Joplin in San Jose and carol king in San Fran. Both start and end with a concert. At least Joplin didn't try to be more than entertainment with a nice contrast of blues songs influencing Joplin and her singing. No real attempt to make a story and tell her life or conflicts.

Beautiful tries to be a good musical but fails on all accounts. The book is just plain crap. An attempt at plot to string along songs. The conflict is a cheating husband and "fake rivalry" with song writing best friends. The only true tension was during the strip poker stand-off between the couples. The rest of the show is by the book story without anything new brought to the table. The songs are combination of the two writing teams sung by the leads and different groups like drifters and shirelles. Where Motown has iconic stars as singers, we have b list groups at best. There is little dancing and the overuse of Christmas lights as backdrop for the singing groups is jaw dropping. And the leads are adequate in the parts, but no tony wins in the bunch.

I will say the audience stood at the end, but this is just another badly put together juke box musical."

Saw this on another website...what do you guys think?

Updated On: 10/4/13 at 02:58 PM
dave1606
Broadway Star
joined:12/8/07
Beautiful in San Francisco
Posted: 10/4/13 at 03:02pm
I am SHOCKEd that anyone found any dramatic merit in that Strip Poker scene. It stopped the show dead in its tracks in my opinion. I do totally agree that the rivalry between the two songwriting groups feels forced. No one is ever upset when the other wins that much. They always seem to remain the best of friends regardless. Curious to see how much of the book is re-written before Broadway. I still stick by my words that the Poker scene is not only a dramatic low point of this show, but of any musical I have seen this year.
LizzieCurry
Broadway Legend
joined:3/7/05
Beautiful in San Francisco
Posted: 10/4/13 at 03:47pm
Where'd you find that, Jovie? (ATC? Oh wait, I guess you did. http://talkinbroadway.com/allthatchat/d.php?id=2166173)

Anyway, the strip poker scene would have way more heft if most of that conflict had been foreshadowed. It really wasn't. I didn't hate it, but it needs help.
"you know what I quit this board, you all can go **** yourselves." - thismyshow
Mystic Pasta
Understudy
joined:2/19/09
Beautiful in San Francisco
Posted: 10/5/13 at 06:50pm
I had high hopes for this one as I think Carole King has so much raw emotion in her lyrics and storytelling. But, this for me, was a waste of time. Maybe I am too young to enjoy it, but the ladies in my row were also checking their watches and they seemed to be in their late 50s. I was not rooting for any of the characters. The creative team has a lot on their plate to get this ready for NYC. The sets were well executed and look expensive. My mom thought the costumes were not historically accurate, but I don't agree. Costumes looked good. The story is very predictable and I wish there was more dramatic conflict. The whole journey seemed kind of forced. I saw Motown last month and liked that better, but I wish we could have a time-out on jukebox musicals for one season. I enjoyed Jersey Boys, Mamma Mia in 2005 and Rock of Ages, but the recent attempts frustrate me about the state of musical theater. Baby It's You, MDQ, Soul Doctor, Rain/Let It Be and Janis Joplin should play in rep and only take one theater leaving room for new work.
StickIt
Stand-by
joined:8/29/08
Beautiful in San Francisco
Posted: 10/7/13 at 03:44pm
I'm shocked at the amount of negativity on this thread. I saw it a week ago and I thought it was really something. Yes, there are definitely some problems, but given how much time they have in New York to work on the show, I can't imagine they won't be taken care of. Obviously, it makes sense to start by praising Jessie Mueller's turn as Carole King. She really embodies Carole's spirit. I saw some concerns on the board about her lack of physical and vocal resemblance to Carole, but I didn't have any issues believing her. She does modify her voice and physicality pretty significantly and while you could write paragraphs raving about her voice, the real treasure here is discovering that she's quite an actress as well. She doesn't play Carole, she lets herself become Carole. Her mannerisms, facial expressions, etc. etc. are all the right combination of homage and artistic interpretation. I would be surprised if she doesn't come away with at the very least a Tony nomination for this role.

But the show is more than just it's Carole, Jake Epstein (who I'd never seen onstage before) makes an impressive debut as Gerry Goffin. He is, unfortunately, saddled with one of the scenes with the most need for rewrites... (*SPOILER* The scene where Gerry attempts suicide isn't quite there yet) and Anika Larsen and Jarrod Spector as Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann are winning and wonderful. "Happy Days Are Here Again" is hilarious and "We've Got to Get Out of This Place" almost stopped the show when I saw it. Top to bottom, really, the cast is phenomenal. Liz Larsen, though she has precious little stage time, milks every second and comes away with some of the loudest laughs in the show. Jeb Brown is perfectly slick and I would be remiss not to give a shout-out to Josh Davis for what he does with Be-Bop-A-Lula, no spoilers.

The book, I will agree, is the show's weakness right now. It is much wittier than I ever expected and both acts contain a plethora of zingers and poignant insights, but there are a couple scenes that really need work. The now-infamous poker scene is among them, though for me the first half of the scene (up until Gerry calls Carole an "old lady") worked, but after that, it really felt like it got confused and the tone shifted in a bizarre way. The weight of what is happening between Cynthia and Barry (and Carole and Gerry) is completely undersold by the choice to end the scene with a joke and a button? Bizarre. There also should be something more, though I'm not sure what, in the space between "Natural Woman" and the end of the show. The second act is significantly shorter than the first and it zips by. The set-up of the frame being this big Carnegie hall concert makes sense to me, but to have the "concert" at the end feature only one rather short song felt like a missed opportunity. Relegating "I Feel the Earth Move" to a curtain call felt like a misstep to me, and it felt like the concert setting might be a natural place to insert "You've Got a Friend" before "Beautiful".

Overall, I think it has real potential. I hope the creators realize they have some work to do, but it really could be something special by the time it gets to opening night here in New York. The core of the show is strong and the cast is phenomenal and the writing is smart. They just need to really hone in on the style and tone that's present in scenes like the one where Carole leaves Gerry or the humor in the scene where they first meet and weave that through the rest of the piece. There's too much good here to let what isn't working distract from it.

Updated On: 10/7/13 at 03:44 PM
Shawk
Broadway Legend
joined:9/9/03
Beautiful in San Francisco
Posted: 10/7/13 at 07:40pm
I have seen Beautiful twice now, and having seen a number of pre-Broadway previews, both successful ("Wicked"), semi-successful ("Legally Blonde," "La Boheme") and unsuccessful ("Lennon," "Lestat"), I feel that this is going to, at the least, be semi-successful. While it sort of functions like a play with songs, the songs are ones many people are going to respond to and enjoy. The weaknesses are nothing that can't be overcome, and hopefully they will make those adjustments.

As sort of a biopic with music, the comparisons to "Jersey Boys" are inevitable, as others have said, but there is a problem in the first act (which needs trimming) in that Carole King was writing songs for other people. So that meant that we would have Carole demoing the song at the studio, then whatever group would swan out and sing it. Which is fine, but there needs to be more "magic." As in, after we just heard Carole sing the song, we don't need to hear another group sing it again, especially when the show never bothers to tell us anything about these other groups. Not to mention that then there's a competition with Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, so we get to hear all their songs, too. And they are good songs, but it just gets a bit much (the first act is an hour and twenty minutes long, and it feels it).

There is one number with The Shirelles that gets re-worked, but we don't really see that part. If they are going to go that direction, they need to show us more of the development of the music; as fun as many of the songs are, it just seems like a way to give the ensemble something to do. And it's not that they aren't talented (although they must get tired of all the costume changes, even the impressive quick changes), it just starts to drag.

The cast, from ensemble to leads, is great. Jessie Mueller (Carole King) doesn't try to do an imitation, but settles comfortably into selling the emotion, meaning and physicality of the role. She also is one of those rare actresses who can look 16 and 40-ish without either looking weird or awkward. As her husband and lyricist, Gerry Goffin, Jake Epstein is doing something really twitchy and manic, but not quite as twitchy as the first preview I saw, which is good. His voice is clear and nice. Most of the best lines go to Jarrod Spector (Barry Man) and Anika Larsen (Cynthia Weil), who have a charmingly dysfunctional relationship, but I feel like they almost ended up more interesting than Carole/Gerry, which isn't great. Spector gets to use both his rock voice ("Gotta Get Outta This Place") and his "Frankie Valli voice" ("Walking in the Rain"). Jeb Brown is perfect as the slightly crusty but wily producer Don Kirshner, and Liz Larsen has great timing as Carole's mother, Genie Klein.

I'll try not to spoil the whole thing, but I feel like the main weakness is that the show hasn't quite narrowed in on what it all means and how to tell it effectively. I mean, a strip poker game/vacation from hell isn't exactly a "Defying Gravity," or even a "Tommy DeVito owes 250K to the mob," and there's a "dramatic scene" that I'm not sure we even need to see-- the important thing is its effect on Carole, not that it happened. Having looked up some about Gerry Goffin and Carole King since, there are clearly plenty of things that happened in their lives that are way more interesting, but I suppose the writers may be constrained (i.e., don't want to get sued). They did make changes to a confrontation between Carole and Gerry that took it from pathetic and sad-sack to people applauding and Carole seeming a lot stronger, but I don't get why they are spending so much time building up that Gerry has a roving eye-- the audience gets it (and the audience this weekend was very, very engaged). Spend that time on Carole and how she overcame what happened in her life. I get that maybe the parts of her life they feel they can tell aren't incredibly fascinating that they demand a musical, but they went there, so now they need to sell it. And I really hope they can -- this show has a lot of promise, a very talented cast, and is very polished for this stage in the process. I look forward to seeing how it does.


'"Contrairiwise," continued Tweedledee, "if it was so, it might be; and if it were so, it would be; but as it isn't, it ain't. That's logic."' ~Lewis Carroll
StickIt
Stand-by
joined:8/29/08
Beautiful in San Francisco
Posted: 10/8/13 at 12:17am
I totally agree that what the show needs is to focus around one main, driving idea and build the structure around that instead of trying to include everything. I think the creators should try to remove the celebrity of the various side characters from their mind and lose the impulse to give the audience everything they're expecting and continue to build the story that they've begun. The roots and the material are there...it just needs to be developed. I think Cynthia and Barry could stand to have their roles reduced, especially near the end of the first act where the focus really needs to be on the pressures that drive Carole away from Gerry and begin to push her towards exploring personal and professional pursuits apart from him.

I also think "On Broadway" could be cut completely. The Drifters are, to me, the most extraneous characters in the first act who are given an inappropriate amount of stage time. It's great that we get to see Cynthia and Barry's big hits too but I'm not sure what having both "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling" AND "On Broadway" necessarily does for the plot. "On Broadway" is the bigger crowd pleaser but "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling" is the more important song from the Mann-Weil catalogue and it plays more into the themes in Carole and Gerry's relationship that we see at the end of the first act.

And on the subject of Gerry's roving eye, I'm not sure the veiled flirtations with Cynthia are necessary or do anything for the plot. Either that needs to be addressed and used to create more tension or cut completely. His "roving eye" is more than established and it seemed off to me that Cynthia and Carole were seemingly so close but the fact that Gerry would make insinuations and comments to her in front of Carole and that would go completely unaddressed seemed unrealistic to me.

I don't think they've "neutered" the plot completely but the fact that there are some fascinating omissions from Carole and Gerry's story to me might be partially because of the creators' friendly relationship with the subjects of their piece. Clearly, they're comfortable with going to some of the darker places and details, but there may be some things that were requested to be off the table. Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann have seen and enjoyed the show, as did Sherry Goffin, and I believe it was stated that Carole intends on going. One of the articles also stated that the script had been given to Gerry Goffin and he had approved it. I just think writing to try to keep everyone happy won't breed the best show. Gerry, according to Carole herself, had many issues with drugs and was diagnosed with manic-depression. I believe he even underwent electroshock therapy. Now, I know bringing those things in makes it a completely different show (Not Quite As Beautiful: The Gerry Goffin Story?) but it's a lot to omit.

Updated On: 10/8/13 at 12:17 AM
Shawk
Broadway Legend
joined:9/9/03
Beautiful in San Francisco
Posted: 10/8/13 at 04:59pm
Gerry making comments to Cynthia in almost every scene they share is just too much, I agree. When I saw it the first time, it played more like Carole was so stunned she had gotten this cute guy and her self-esteem was so compromised that she wasn't going to say anything about it, and Cynthia seemed to take it like a joke, so I guess it kind of worked (although if Goffin really was controlling, it would have helped to put some of that in).

However, now that they have Carole seem stronger during the breakup scene, it just doesn't scan.

I'm assuming that the real life "Janelle" was not consulted and the writers feel they can't include more of what went on there or with Gerry's apparent drug use/mental illness, but that is much more interesting than strip poker, from what I can tell. I mean, I don't want it to be some soap opera mashup with "Next to Normal," but surely there must be a way to focus on some more meaningful events.
'"Contrairiwise," continued Tweedledee, "if it was so, it might be; and if it were so, it would be; but as it isn't, it ain't. That's logic."' ~Lewis Carroll

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