Review: BEAUTIFUL THE CAROLE KING MUSICAL at Paramount Theatre Aurora, IL

Production runs through June 16

By: May. 06, 2024
Review: BEAUTIFUL THE CAROLE KING MUSICAL at Paramount Theatre Aurora, IL
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The earth moved. The current production at the Paramount Theatre is Beautiful, the Carole King Musical. This is more than a jukebox musical. It tells the amazing story of one of the greatest songwriters of the 20th century and how her story evolved.

It begins with Carole’s June 1971 concert at Carnegie Hall. This was during the same time frame that her iconic Tapestry album was climbing the charts. The flashback begins. She was 16 and studying at Queens College (she skipped a few grades). Carole is truthfully portrayed by Oswego’s own Tiffany Topol. Carole’s mother, Genie Klein (Laura T. Fisher in her Paramount debut) is against Carole wanting to be a songwriter.

At Queen’s College, Carole meets Gerry Goffin (C.J. Blaine Eldred in his Paramount debut), a chemistry student who really wants to be a lyricist. They end up collaborating together and their songs begin to take off with the help of soon-to-be music mogul Don “Donnie” Kirschner – yes that Don Kirschner (Ian Paul Custer).

When Carole tells Gerry she is pregnant, they get married.  As their songs continue to hit the charts, they move into their own office at 1650 Broadway. They meet two other aspiring songwriters, Cynthia Weil (Rebecca Hurd in her Paramount debut) and Barry Mann (Christopher Kale Jones). These four have a competition to see whose song will reach number 1 first but are the best of friends.

Both couples have songs which are performed by the big groups of the day: the Shirelles, the Drifters, the Righteous Brothers, the Monkees and Carole and Gerry’s babysitter, Little Eva (Ariana Burks). Gerry eventually has a breakdown. He and Carole decide to part ways while Barry and Cynthia decide to get married.

Carole goes to Los Angeles with her 2 daughters for a vacation and discovers how much she likes L.A. She decides to live there and moves to Laurel Canyon, the home for many up and coming musical artists. Saying goodbye to Cynthia, Barry and Donnie, Carole performs a song for them which sums up their relationship: You’ve Got a Friend. Once in L.A., Carole is now recording her Tapestry album.

The final song is the hardest for her to record. She wrote it with Gerry and she is afraid of the feelings that might be stirred up. Her producer, Lou Adler (Luke Nowakowski) persuades her to record Natural Woman. Flash forward to the opening of her show at Carnegie Hall. Gerry visits Carole backstage before she goes on and gives her a good luck gift: an apology for all the ways he hurt her. He tells her how proud he is of her. She goes on stage, sits at the piano and plays Beautiful. Full circle.

Directors Jim Corti and Johanna Mckenzie Miller (Paramount debut) and this talented ensemble seamlessly tell Carole’s story to the fullest extent. The orchestra, under the direction of Kory Danielson, is the backbone to this music. 

Walking into the Paramount, you are struck by the stunning opening set – a grand piano in the middle of the stage at Carnegie Hall.  Scenic designer Jeffrey D. Kmiec has done it again! There are minimal sets but you do feel that you are in a home, a New York building and Carnegie Hall.  The choreography by Kenny Ingram (Paramount debut) works so well with all the different musical groups. The different eras of the songs are showcased with the dance.

This is a great story about a woman who followed her dreams. The core four were instrumental in creating some of the greatest music tracks ever recorded. Sadly, Cynthia Weil passed June 1, 2023. Gerry passed in 2014.

Carole and Barry are friends to this day. There were some rough spots along the way but ultimately great success. She knew the journey would require help. That’s where family and friends come in. Sit back, listen to the soundtrack of our life and enjoy the journey. The Paramount provides the vehicle. It’s a great ride. The ride ends June 16.


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