BWW Review: BEAUTIFUL at Hanover Theatre In Worcester, MA
While the Earth didn't exactly move during the national tour stop of BEAUTIFUL at the Hanover Theater in Worcester this week, this more successful than most biographical jukebox musical did set off an occasional temblor. No surprise, those moments came when the show's legendary subject, Carole King, was channeled by her doppelganger Kennedy Caughell alone at the piano.
It took until the second half of the second act for Caughell to deliver King's most famous songs from her most famous album, Tapestry, but once she did the true scope of the singer-songwriter's enduring genius sparked wave after wave of grateful nostalgia. "So Far Away," "It's Too Late," "You've Got a Friend," "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman," and the title song "Beautiful" demonstrate just how enduring King's music became once she found her own voice as a solo composer and performer. As is so often the case with women from her generation, her true authority never took full bloom until she stopped compromising her sound, and herself, for her marriage.
The book by Douglas McGrath is a paint by numbers framework upon which 27 easily recognizable musical numbers are suspended. The early years in which King (then a shy and unassuming Carol Klein) meets cute and marries aspiring playwright Gerry Goffin (James. D Gish) features hits they wrote together for The Drifters ("Some Kind of Wonderful" and "Up on the Roof"), The Shirelles ("Will You Love Me Tomorrow"), and Little Eva ("The Locomotion"). These alternate with the chart makers of friends and fellow writing team Barry Mann (James Michael Lambert) and Cynthia Weil (Kathryn Boswell). This secondary duo's most notable entries are the pulsing "On Broadway" also performed by The Drifters and the Righteous Brothers sensation, "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling." As my companion so rightly whispered, they don't write songs like that anymore.
The cast of this national touring company is generally serviceable, with Caughell moving from naïve Brooklyn frump to world-class Carnegie Hall headliner effortlessly. But James Michael Lambert as Barry Mann is the clear standout. He and Boswell are the obvious comic relief, but his sad sack hypochondriac, helplessly and hopelessly in love with his writing partner, is a delight.
The highly synthesized five-piece pit band doesn't do justice to the memories of the rich-sounding original covers. But when King is backed by a club band performing "Chains" on stage with her in what is meant to replicate her first live appearance at the Bitter End in NYC, the sound is suddenly true.
In the lobby after the show, the BEAUTIFUL cast album was available for purchase. Too bad they didn't also have Tapestry. I would have purchased that in a heartbeat.
(PHOTOS courtesy of Hanover Theatre)
Book by Douglas McGrath; words and music by Gerry Goffin and Carole King, Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil; directed by Marc Bruni; choreographed by Josh Prince; scenic design, Derek McLane; costume design, Alejo Vietti; lighting design, Peter Kaczorowski; sound design, Brian Ronan; wig and hair design, Charles G. LaPointe; make-up design, Joe Dulude II; orchestrations, vocal and music arrangements, Steve Sidwell; music supervision and additional arrangements, Jason Howland; music director, Alan J. Plado; production stage manager, Joel Rosen
Cast in Order of Appearance:
Carole King, Kennedy Caughell; Genie Klein, Rachel Coloff; Betty, Marilyn Wald, Danielle Bowen; Neil Sedaka, Lou Adler, Nick Moulton; Lucille, Antoinette Comer; Don Kirshner, Matt Loehr; Gerry Goffin, James D. Gish; Cynthia Weil, Kathryn Boswell; Barry Mann, James Michael Lambert; Janelle Woods, Hailee Kaleen Wright; Little Eva, Nya; Nick, Matthew Amira; "Uptown" Singer, Nazarria Workman; additional ensemble members, Isaiah Bailey, Edwin Bates, Torrey Linder, Ben Toomer
Performances and Tickets:
Limited run through September 29, Hanover Theatre, 2 Southbridge St., Worcester, MA; tickets start at $39 and are available online at www.TheHanoverTheatre.org, by phone at 877-571-7469, or at the Box Office.