BWW Review: Empowering Anthems Shine in Mirvish's BEAUTIFUL - THE CAROLE KING MUSICAL
Feel the earth move with Chilina Kennedy's powerhouse vocals. Mirvish Productions presents BEAUTIFUL - THE Carole King MUSICAL, with a book by Douglas McGrath and music by Gerry Goffin & Carole King and Barry Mann & Cynthia Weil. The musical follows King's journey - from the sale of her very first song, to her solo performance at Carnegie Hall. Featuring some of the most well-known songs of all time, BEAUTIFUL is a night out at the theatre that promises to have you groovin' in your seat.
You may have heard of Carole King? One of the most successful female songwriters of the late 20th century, the autobiographical musical begins with the sale of her first single, It Might as Well Rain Until September. King (Chilina Kennedy) meets, swoons and collaborates with lyricist and aspiring playwright Gerry Goffin (Liam Tobin) - forming the perfect duo to produce those famous love songs for their producer, Don Kirshner (James Clow). In an attempt to secure a songwriting job with the record label, Cynthia Weil (Erika Olson) impresses Kirshner with an unconventional audition - inspiring the uninspired Barry Mann (Ben Fankhauser) in the process. The two creative teams compete for singles - their confusing emotional affairs becoming the foundation for their popular hits.
BEAUTIFUL works better than most jukebox musicals because the songs are presented how they were intended to be presented. Instead of a well-known song being plopped into a fictional storyline, the musical narrative in BEAUTIFUL is aligned with the song's contextual inspiration. The downside is, the scene structure becomes a constant, repetitive shift from songwriting to performance. The upside is, the ensemble is given a tremendous amount of work - transforming into various artists and bands from the different decades.
The show's biggest stakes lie in the song, Will You Love Me Tomorrow. Is love everlasting? How do you get that perfect moment? And once you get it, how do you hold onto it? The song is as much a reflection of King & Goffin's relationship as it is a prayer that the world continue to love their music.
Chilina Kennedy is Carole King. I had to remind myself to distinguish between the two during Kennedy's polished portrayal. Even after two years of playing the role on Broadway, Kennedy's performance feels fresh. From the moment she steps onto the stage (So Far Away), her nuanced performance embodies King's mannerisms - climaxing in the show's title number (Beautiful). The title role demands an interesting vocal technique from its star. In an effort to mimic King's sound, the leading lady needs to manipulate her voice into a pressed, straight belt throughout the show. The line, "and I'll be there" in You've Got a Friend is a perfect example of this. Adopting that Carole King sound can be extremely challenging - unless you're Chilina Kennedy.
King's tight-jawed lover is played by fellow Canadian actor, Liam Tobin. Tobin's assured firmness on stage creates likeable chemistry with Kennedy's goofy, awkward demeanour. His voice opens up in Up on the Roof, displaying an easy belt and a well-balanced, smooth baritone. The perfect contrast to Tobin's Gerry, Ben Fankhauser is a dreamy, hopeless romantic as Barry Mann. In an exquisite portrayal, with exceptional comedic timing - Fankhauser's unwavering morals as Barry, illuminate Tobin's villainous qualities as Gerry. It's a shame that Fankhauser has to sing We Gotta Get Out of This Place. His voice is gorgeous, but much better suited to the other songs in the show. Speaking of gorgeous voices, Erika Olson is a dream as the dry, witty Cynthia Weil. The driver to Carole King's dove-like amiability, Olson has some of the show's funniest lines and a piercing belt to go along with the comedy.
BEAUTIFUL has a message that everyone can relate to - "Sometimes life goes the way you want... and sometimes when it doesn't, you find something beautiful." There's a moment where King explains that she could never perform because she's just a "regular" person. This is what makes BEAUTIFUL, beautiful - regular people, doing extraordinary things.
For more information and to purchase tickets visit mirvish.com
(Photo: Joan Marcus)