Review: BEAUTIFUL: THE CAROLE KING MUSICAL Glows with Musical Genius at The Hobby Center

The show runs now through Sunday, June 5th!

VIDEO: Get A First Look at RENT at Theatre Under The Stars, Directed by Ty DefoeBEAUTIFUL - THE Carole King MUSICAL is not only a time capsule of some of the greatest hits of music history, it's a peek behind the curtain of how they all came to be. The life story of the iconic Carole King is inseparable from her songbook. This story starts with a Carole Klein-before she was the Carole King we adore-and takes us behind the scenes to see how her genius blossomed.

This show is packed full of the songs you love, the ones you can't get out of your head, and the ones you never even knew (at the time) had the genius of Carole King behind them. You get to see the story behind how the greats became the greats. You already know the happy ending, but this is where you go to find out the rest.

Hindsight is your best friend in a show like this. There's nothing like watching a scene unfold, hearing Carole and her partner/husband Gerry Goffin pluck a few notes on the piano, and listening to them waffle about if the song will be good enough to be a hit. Because you, sitting in the audience-you know something they don't. You know what song they're about to play. You can already tell by those first few notes. You already know it's going to be a massive hit. In fact, you know all the words. And the cathartic dopamine rush that hits you when they begin to play it, confirming what you already knew? Well, that's simply the best of all. And it happens over and over in this show with legendary tunes like "Will You Love Me Tomorrow" or "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman".

VIDEO: Get A First Look at RENT at Theatre Under The Stars, Directed by Ty Defoe
Kaitlyn Davis portrayed Carole King with perfection
at Friday night's performance of BEAUTIFUL.

I immediately got excited when the white slip of paper fell out of my Playbill and I saw that not only did we have an understudy (Kaitlyn Davis) playing the leading lady, but that our performance was chock-full of understudies getting their moment onstage. Understudies and swings are nothing short of superheroes, so I love performances like this. When they get the chance to go on, you know they're going to bring it.

And bring it they DID. Where to start but with the showstopping Kaitlyn Davis? Earnest yet strong of heart, she fit the role of Carole like a glove. When she sang, the notes seemed to both float to the ceiling and pierce the sky all at once. Effortless yet powerful. I could listen to her for hours. Her portrayal of Carole was a delight. You celebrated with her, cried with her, and at times yearned to yell out and let her know "It's all going to work out, trust me! Just keep going!"

In partnership with Gerry, Carole created hit after hit as a songwriter before she ever took the stage on her own. At our performance, Gerry was played by Paul Scanlan with vitality and intensity in contrast to Carole's mellow and sweet disposition.

VIDEO: Get A First Look at RENT at Theatre Under The Stars, Directed by Ty Defoe
Sara Sheperd, Sara King, Ryan Farnsworth & James D. Gish.
Photos by Joan Marcus.

Their close friends (and rival songwriters) Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann gave the story another entertaining dimension. Danielle Bowen treated us to a stellar performance as the electric Cynthia, commanding the stage immediately. Ryan Farnsworth filled out the other half of their songwriting team as Barry Mann, and the two went on to write hits like "On Broadway" and "You've Lost that Lovin' Feeling".

Directed by Marc Bruni and choreographed by Josh Prince, the staging was as seamless as flicking through television channels. In an instant, the entire time, place, color, and sound of a scene would switch. One second you're in Carole and Jerry's office, hearing them tinker on the piano with what they're hoping will be the hit they need. In the next second, the set has transformed and The Drifters are now the focal point, singing the aforementioned song in completion.

Like any jukebox musical, the plot moves quickly and bops from place to place in order to cover the entirety of the story. But with a show like this, as long as you get to hear your favorite hits, you're content with the necessary jump cuts through time and story. Book writer Douglas McGrath does a solid job of navigating this challenge.

From the moment the music started, I felt more like I was at a concert than at the theatre. This show was a formidable wall of sound-which, ladies and gents, is why sound design is the unsung hero of a successful performance. Big shoutout to the incredible musicians (led by Conductor Alan J. Plado), the entire music design team, and sound designer Brian Ronan for making this show top-notch.

VIDEO: Get A First Look at RENT at Theatre Under The Stars, Directed by Ty Defoe
Matt Loehr, James D. Gish, Sara Sheperd,
Ryan Farnsworth and Sara King.
Photos by Joan Marcus.

Derek McLane's set design captured my eye immediately. The textured background of musical instrumentals, audio equipment, and microphones was like a maze for the eye. I ached for a glimpse up close. Peter Kaczorowski's lighting danced in delightful union with the set and gave the show much of the "TV channel effect" I mentioned earlier. Alejo Vietti's costumes are spot-on, and I found myself envying some of the numbers that Miss Cynthia Weil got to don throughout the show.

Nothing made me happier than glimpsing up to the balcony and noticing an elderly woman living her absolute best life during The Locomotion. I'm talking dancing-like-nobody's-watching mode. I thought about the memories she must have tied to these songs-about the memories so many of us in the audience have to these songs. Come live out your own memories at BEAUTIFUL before it leaves town-you'll be glad you did.

COVID PROTOCOL: Masks are highly recommended. Visit here for more information.

BEAUTIFUL - THE Carole King MUSICAL will be in performance at the Hobby Center in Houston now through Sunday, June 5th. Tickets start at $35 and are available by phone at (800) 982-2787; online at or; the Hobby Center Box Office (800 Bagby, Houston, TX 77002), and all Ticketmaster outlets. Discounts are available for groups of 10 or more. For more information, please call (888) 451-5986 or e-mail


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