BWW Review: BEAUTIFUL: THE CAROLE KING MUSICAL Delivers Powerful Performance at Fox Cities P.A.C.
BEAUTIFUL: THE Carole King MUSICAL opened strongly at the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center in Appleton. With glitzy production numbers, skilled performances from the cast and a lot of heart, BEAUTIFUL lives up to its name - it truly is beautiful.
The jukebox musical follows Carole King's life and rise to fame. Early in the show awkward, self-deprecating teen Carole Klein is trying to sell a song under the penname "Carole King," when she meets Gerry Goffin, a lyricist. The two soon get married and write songs together. However, as their careers grow, their marriage starts to crumble. While Carole King's personal and professional lives are in jeopardy, she finds the strength to take her career to new heights.
The musical score includes works by Carole King, Gerry Goffin, Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, providing an enjoyable flashback to popular 1950s through 1970s numbers like "One Fine Day," "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling," "Will You Love Me Tomorrow," "It's Too Late" and so many more.
The staging adds to the overall effect of the musical. Choreography by Josh Prince throws back to the distinctive 1960s style. Scenic design by Derek McLane transitions seamlessly between scenes and conveys the appropriate atmosphere. Lighting design by Peter Kaczorowski is particularly notable in production numbers, where it creates a concert-like atmosphere. Costume design by Alejo Vietti not only helps ground the story in historical context, it also effectively conveys the passage of time.
The cast does an exceptional job with the material. Since the show features many songs that were written for other performers, there is a revolving door of performers on stage. Each of these performers is remarkable and captures the nuances of the artists who originally recorded the songs.
Julia Knitel delivers an impressive performance as Carole King. Knitel conveys the evolution of the character from awkward teen to strong woman. Additionally, Knitel has Carole King's affectations so down pat that it is often easy to forget she isn't the singer herself.
Erika Olson appears as lyricist Cynthia Weil, while Ben Fankhauser plays her writing partner Barry Mann. Olson and Fankhauser add levity to the show through their brilliant comedic timing. Additionally, the subplot of the romance between Weil and Fankhauser may be one of the more engaging subplots you'll see in a musical, perhaps due to their overwhelming likeability.
BEAUTIFUL: THE Carole King MUSICAL feels like the best possible combination between a terrific concert and a musical. It delivers laughs, drama and, of course, phenomenal music.