BWW Previews: BEAUTIFUL THE CAROLE KING MUSICAL at The Playhouse
The year is 1960. The place is Aldersgate Church Canteen on a Saturday night. Springer Jr. High student Greer Firestone is in attendance along with most of his classmates. #1. The DJ intones 'ladies choice' and spins "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow" by The Shirelles. #2. The girls swarm to form a line in front of Firestone, in faint (and to most) despairing hopes of being singularly enraptured in a 'moment in time' by his rakish, boyish charm.
Dear Readers, you choose if either #1 is true, #2 is true or both!
(The Shirelles' tune is notable for being the first song by a black all-girl group to reach number one in the United States. The Shirelles are recreated in BEAUTIFUL).
As the decades followed, Carole King tunes become part of the American music fabric: "One Fine Day", "Locomotion", "It's Too Late", not to mention a cover by Aretha of "(You Make Me Feel) Like a Natural Woman", among scores of others. Then along came 1971's TAPESTRY, which became an instant success. With numerous hit singles - including a Billboard No.1 with "It's Too Late" - Tapestry held the No.1 spot for 15 consecutive weeks, remained on the charts for nearly six years, and has sold over 25 million copies worldwide. The album garnered four Grammy Awards including Album of the Year; Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female; Record of the Year and Song of the Year, with King becoming the first woman to win the award ("You've Got a Friend"). The album appeared on Rolling Stone's "500 Greatest Albums of All Time" list at number 36.
So, Delawareans, are you to ready to hear the earth move? The second national tour of BEAUTIFUL comes to The Playhouse on a tour that began in September and runs until June. Since its launch in 2015, this elegant production has played 1442 performances in 94 cities and seen by over 2.5 million patrons.
This juke box musical begins in Brooklyn 1958. 16-year-old Carole tells her mother, Genie, she is going into Manhattan to try to sell a song to music publisher Donnie Kirschner. In the long tradition of mothers, Genie is opposed to her daughter's wish and in the equally long tradition of teenagers not caring about their mother's opinion, Carole goes anyway.
There she met the man of her dreams, lyricist Gerry Goffin, and the two created nectarous musical magic. As the story unfolds, they work together with Kirschner in The Brill Building, shared by other song writing greats such as Neil Sedaka, Paul Simon and Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann. Tunes from these compadres are in the show, including The Drifters "On Broadway" and "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin' both written by Weil and Mann. There are over 50 tunes in this production, a veritable archive of American pop music and a soundtrack to a generation.
BEAUTIFUL tells her inspiring story of King's remarkable rise to stardom, most especially when she and Goffin divorced and out came "Tapestry".
Aisle Say had an opportunity to chat with actor Matt Loehr, who plays Donnie Kirschner. (Those of a certain age may remember "Don Kirschner's Rock Concert" on tv from '72-'81).
With a strong triple threat background, Loehr sings only one song in the show. But with his impressive resume, one understands how he snagged the gig. Matt was in the original Broadway production of THE PRODUCERS, directed and choreo'd by 5-time Tony Award winner Susan Stroman and probably 3rd most celebrated Delaware native after #1 Aubrey Plaza and #2 Joe Biden.
"Sue was just the most amazing person to work with", says Loehr. "I was honored. Always professional, always prepared. It was like a Master Class working with her during rehearsals and brush-ups".
And speaking of Master Class, during their 4 3-day stint here in Wilmington, Loehr is giving one of his own at a Claymont-based ballet school. (3 days in one town is the ultimate luxury for tour groups. Most national tours are killer one-nighters).
Fun Fact #1: Aisle Say had interviewed Chilena Kennedy here at DE Theatre Company when she took a hiatus from playing King on Broadway to star in DTC's SIGN OF THE TIMES.
Fun Fact #2: I wrote a musical GERSHWIN, by George: The 1936 Radio Show that was performed at the baby grand in 2000. Gershwin, along with Irving Berlin and countless others, was a Tin Pan Alley song plugger. The Kirschner "Brill Building" reference reminded me of all the composers on Tin Pan Alley. In the interview, Matt Loehr said the same thing before I brought it up.
Check out Beautiful On Broadway. I've been told its "Some Kind of Wonderful".
November 14 -17 The Grand Wilmington 302.888.0200