BWW Interview: Final 'Carole King' Sarah Bockel Looks Back on BEAUTIFUL's Beautiful Legacy
The earth is still moving at the Stephen Sondheim Theatre, but only until October 27, 2019. As BroadwayWorld previously reported, the musical, based on life of recording superstar Carole King, will conclude its record-breaking Broadway run in just under a month.
By the time Beautiful takes its final bow, it will have played 60 preview and 2,418 regular performances, surpassing the original production of Annie and the landmark 1998 revival of Cabaret to become the 27th longest-running musical (and the 2nd longest running "bio-musical") in Broadway history. On Broadway, the show has been seen by almost 2,200,000 audience members (including, quite famously, Ms. King herself) and has grossed nearly $250,000,000. The musical is the longest-running and highest-grossing show in the history of the Stephen Sondheim Theatre and recouped its production costs in less than ten months on Broadway. Acclaimed productions have played London, Japan, Australia, and toured the United Kingdom. The North American tour is celebrating its fourth year of sold out runs across the continent.
Current 'Carole King,' Sarah Bockel, has been along for the ride, first joining the national touring company in 2015. On September 5, she officially took over the role on Broadway, and she's telling us all about why she couldn't be happier to lead the cast through its final performances.
I know that you're in your third week as Carole on Broadway. How's it been going so far?
It's good! My body is definitely bouncing back. I feel like every time I have some time off from the show and then go back to it, my body remembers pretty quickly what it takes. It's just about getting back into the maintenance of the role. It's nice that my body and my mind remember it all!
You've been on tour with Beautiful before now. When did you join the company?
I was a Chicago actor up until just a few weeks ago when I finally moved to New York. I sent in a tape for the show from Chicago in 2014- this was for the tour. And I got it, so I was in the original tour cast in 2015. I understudied Abby Mueller, then I understudied Julia Knitel, who took over for Abbey in year two. Then I left about six months into year two, because I had been touring for about eighteen months at that point. I was really ready to just go home to Chicago and was really excited to see how life would have changed after doing a national tour. I ended up being unemployed for about five months.
Then the producers called me and asked if I would take over for Julia for year three. So I did year three and four on the road as Carole. In between those bits, I covered on Broadway and was in the ensemble of Beautiful for about six weeks. So I snuck in my Broadway debut really quick! Then last year I got to play Carole on Broadway for about a month because Chilina Kennedy, who was playing her then, is a Toronto native, and so when the tour wen there, they asked if we would switch. And I was like, "Heck yeah!"
So you've really been all over the place...
Yeah, there's just a small handful of states that I haven't been to at this point. I've seen a lot of different iterations of the show and I've seen all of the understudies. It's really cool to see how the show has grown and to get to see it through so many different people.
I can't imagine how hard it is to step on the moving train that is a running Broadway show, but it seems like you're pretty much a pro, having done it so many times already.
I actually really like doing that. There are certain people who are better at it than others I think. You don't want to step on anybody's toes, and you want to be the puzzle piece that can just flawlessly move in and not change anybody's show. But truly, it speaks to the people who have been in the show forever, who are excited and willing to compromise and willing to make something new together.
I'm sure there is a ton of pressure involved with playing a real person, let alone a real , living person. Has that made it harder to find your version of the character and really make it your own?
I think it definitely depends on what the creative team wants. There are standards that you want to abide by, just in her actual character as a person. She is a very gracious, kind, able to laugh at herself kind of person. There are these really strong qualities that anyone who is a fan of her knows, just from interviews and stuff. I think that our casting team is really incredible, because you can look at all of the women who have played Carole and see that we are all different body shapes and heights and ages. It's nice that they didn't stick to a physical standard and it's more of a personality standard. It's a lot of good, kind women who have been cast, and I truly like all of them.
Just to be playing Carole King I'd imagine is such an honor in itself, but there's such a legacy of actresses played the role up until now. How does it feel knowing you'll be the final Carole?
With a book by Tony and Academy® Award nominee Douglas McGrath, direction by Marc Bruni, and choreography by Josh Prince, Beautiful features a stunning array of beloved songs written by Gerry Goffin/Carole King and Barry Mann/Cynthia Weil.
From the string of pop classics she wrote for the biggest acts in music to her own life-changing, chart-busting success with Tapestry, Beautiful takes you back to where it all began - and takes you on the ride of a lifetime.
Featuring over two dozen pop classics, including "You've Got a Friend," "One Fine Day," "Up on the Roof," "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling," "Will You Love Me Tomorrow," and "Natural Woman," this crowd-pleasing international phenomenon is filled with the songs you remember - and a story you'll never forget.