BWW Review: BEAUTIFUL: THE CAROLE KING MUSICAL at Fisher Theatre Thru Jan 8
By guest columnist Dr. Patti Radakovich
BEAUTIFUL: THE Carole King MUSICAL is a delightful experience that is part musical, part history lesson, and part biography. The musical tells the story of Carole King as she grows from aspiring teenage songwriter to prolific composer and ultimately to successful and beloved recording artist. It also tells her personal story as she grows from love struck teenager to young wife and mother and ultimately to strong independent woman.
The beauty of this story is that it tells parallel stories within the main story. The audience learns about Carole, her husband, her mother, and her best friends who are fellow song writers. Overlaying all of those stories, the musical captures the history and evolution of music during this era. While Carole King songs are of course prolific, many songs from other artists are also part of this musical.
Because the songs are so familiar, the audience reaction was emotive. They bopped along to the music or sat straighter in their seats when a song they knew started to play. You could hear whispers, "I know that one!" or "I didn't know she wrote that!" or "This is one of my favorites!" While this play can be enjoyed by a wide variety of theater goers, it will probably be the most touching and profound to baby boomers, as they grew up on this music. As one audience member noted, "There were a lot of memories in those songs."
Rivaling the emotive music to make this a magical experience were the set changes. The sets were designed to be minimalist but just enough to transport the audience to the scene. But it was the choreography of the set changes that really shined. The sets moved seamlessly from one scene to the next without a visual disturbance to the audience. The set designers and stage hands deserve a standing ovation for their part in making this play a riveting experience.
The only detractor from this show was the audience rudeness. While one can hope it was unintentional, it is worth noting to perhaps encourage future audiences to be more cognizant of other theater goers and not engage in these activities. First, audience members need to put away their cell phones before the show begins. Both at the beginning of the first act and again at the beginning of the second act, several audience members did not put away their cell phones until well into the first scene. This is disrespectful and disturbing to the performers and other audience members. If you must check your phone or respond to messages, make sure you finish before the show begins.
Second, the number of people who arrived late to the show was astounding. About a fifth of the main floor was seated after the first scene. Not only did these people miss part of the show, the sheer volume of people coming in late disrupted the second scene until everyone could be seated. Sometimes lateness is unanticipated and unavoidable, but with that many people showing up late, there seemed to be something else going on. Being late to the theater is not fashionable. In fact, in most Broadway venues in New York, late seating is prohibited, so if you are late, you miss the entire show. If you are not a regular theater goer, keep in mind traffic, parking, and getting to your seats when you plan your evening. It will be a much more enjoyable theater experience for you and your fellow theater goers if you arrive before the show beings.
BEAUTIFUL is playing at the Fisher Theater through January 8, 2017. The show runs 2 hours and 3o minutes with one intermission. Tickets start at $44.
Dr. Patti Radakovich is an avid theater goer who used to participate in community theater as a performer and choreographer. She recently came back from a whirlwind trip to New York City where she saw 7 Broadway performances in 4 days. She has also attended theater performances internationally, including in London, Toronto, and Shanghai.