BWW Review: Happy Days Are Here Again as BEAUTIFUL: THE CAROLE KING MUSICAL Comes To Calgary
There is a reason bio-musicals and jukebox tales are so popular. There is a nostalgia and comfort in knowing the music and the people that allows an audience to give themselves over to the magic of theatre. I've found audiences more susceptible to suspension of disbelief if there is an element of the familiar - like an historical figure or famous artist. It then becomes the task of the production to take that malleable group and create a story with meaning.
Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, tells the story of the singer/songwriter who pursued her dreams of being an artist in the 1960s. She marries lyricist Gerry Goffin at a young age but it's not the happily ever after they imagined; she forms a competitive friendship with writing team Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann; and she struggles to balance the life she wants with her responsibilities and fears.
The music that Carole wrote was iconic. There were so many songs that I didn't even realize were attributed to her and yet I grew up listening to her incredible catalog of music. Her story is sweetly inspiring and is told in a fast-paced manner - despite the number of ballads - that made two-and-a-half hours feel like nothing.
On tour with Broadway Across Canada, the company of Beautiful have been together for quite a while already, and have clearly settled into the rhythm of the show as they performed at the Southern Jubilee Auditorium in Calgary, Alberta. With a fantastic cast and crew taking us on the journey, there was no doubt in my mind, they hadn't lost that lovin' feeling.
I count myself lucky to have seen Kaylee Harwood (one of the show's swings) go on as the leading role of Carole King. She reminded me of a 90s era Sherri Rene Scott with her powerful voice, quick wit and charming personality. I was completely drawn in when she stepped out on stage with her high ponytail and hopeful smile. Through the character's emotional journey, I never once strayed from watching Kaylee's facial expressions, completely enthralled.
As much as this is the Carole King musical, no story of her life would be complete with the trio of artists she shared much of her time with: her husband Gerry Goffin (played by Dylan S. Wallach), lyricist Cynthia Weil (played by Alison Whitehurst), and composer Barry Mann (played by Jacob Heimer). Because the story has so much to tell in such a short amount of time, we're given personality markers early on in the character's introduction to guide us through the story. Gerry is a player, Cynthia is brassy, Barry is a hypochondriac. There is more to their characters and their relationships but a lot of the personability of these three came from the actors.
Alison Whitehurst, for example, is so smooth but precise in her movements; every step was like a dance. Yet I found Cynthia to be a thoughtful, grounded, sure person who was confident in her abilities. Dylan S. Wallach, playing Carole's husband Gerry Goffin, had a difficult task to do: playing a perpetual cheater as a coping mechanism for some sort of neurological disorder. Admittedly, I don't know much about the man Dylan was playing but I know I could never pinpoint exactly the type of person Gerry was and I think that's a little fascinating. I couldn't decide if he was a hero or villain - despite all the evidence to the latter - and I loved seeing an incredibly flawed character on stage. Jacob Heimer played an adorable Barry Mann. He was cute and sweet, and a great juxtaposition to the muddled and demanding Gerry; like a sigh of relief.
The rest of the show moved by in a flash. The actors filled the stage, sets came in and out, music filled the theatre. Standout musical numbers for me were The Drifters (played by Darius Delk, Dimitri Joseph Moïse, Deon Releford-Lee and Nathan Andrew Riley) who covered so much of the stage in just a few steps - thanks to choreography by Josh Prince - without losing their smirks; and The Shirelles (played by Mckynleigh Alden Abraham, Marla Louissaint, DeAnne Stewart, and Alexis Tidwell) whose smooth movement made costume transitions - and reveals - simply flawless. I want to applaud the costume team, designed by Alejo Vietti, for creating such gorgeous costumes for such incredibly talented performers.
There was never a time when my heart and soul weren't engaged in the story. I laughed, I booed (at Gerry), I longed to see these characters succeed despite already knowing the outcome. I think that's a testament to the strength of all the actors in this touring production. Travelling theatre is difficult. It's opening and closing night every week or so. Time not on stage is spent on the road with the same people for months (and even years) and if there isn't unit cohesion, it shows. On stage at the Jubilee, I saw a powerful cast of actors and it really was some kind of wonderful.
Beautiful: The Carole King Musical will be playing at the Southern Jubilee Auditorium until November 4th before heading to Edmonton, Alberta for opening night on November 6th. Tickets can be purchased at www.broadway.com.