BWW Review: BEAUTIFUL: THE CAROLE KING MUSICAL at Times Union Theater
More often than not, I go to a show and sit through the entire thing with the biggest grin on my face. Beautiful: The Carole King Musical was no exception. The musical is the type where I did not want it to be over as the curtain closed. The Tony nominated musical chronicles Carole Klein's, known as Carole King, early music career as a composer at the young age of 17. She meets Gerry Goffin in college where they form not only a musical partnership, but a romantic relationship. The duo wrote some of the most iconic songs of the 50's, 60's, and 70's so much so that the audience was cheering when just a few notes were played from these songs. Beautiful depicts the growth of careers, beginnings of friendships, and end of relationships in the most extraordinary way. Every performance was "Some Kind of Wonderful".
The stage design of Beautiful was incredible. From the moment the show starts, the audience was mesmerized by "So Far Away". Carole, while sitting on her piano, is rolled away and the set is completely changed in a matter of seconds. Throughout the show, the audience is in awe of the ever-changing set, where one minute we viewed Carole and Gerry's office, and the next the piano and desks are switched to Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil's office just on the other side of an invisible wall. One of the most incredible set changes was the change between Barry and Cynthia's office to the bright lights of Broadway in "On Broadway". The lights, the set, the performance truly captured Broadway at this time and was magnificent.
First off, it is important to note the amount of courage it takes for the actresses who step into the role of Carole King. The iconic singer has such a unique style and voice that seems very daunting to take on. However, Sarah Bockel took the challenge and ran with it. Bockel achieved so many aspects that made her King, while still maintaining her uniqueness as an actress. Bockel's voice was phenomenal, leaving the audience cheering after every performance, and sometimes applauding before she uttered a note. Not only does she have the voice, but her acting is incredible. Bockel possesses such a humorous quality, never missing a beat for a funny side comment. The emotion she brought to the role was stunning. I could hear audience members commenting on how sorry they felt for the character in certain circumstances and how great Bockel was in those scenes. One of the best examples of emotion in her performance was "One Fine Day", where King takes over for Janelle Woods. She portrayed a woman who is heartbroken but will overcome in such an extraordinary way that the audience went crazy for.
Andrew Brewer, who played Gerry Goffin, was outstanding. He entered the stage, and the audience knew he would be the heartthrob. A chemistry major, turned lyricist proved following your passion trumps the safe and easy career. Brewer, like Goffin, had so much passion for his role that was remarkable. The audience could both love and hate him after all the decisions he made. Brewer accurately portrayed a man who felt he had to grow up too fast. Goffin married King at a young age, as well as becoming a father, have a career in chemistry, and a side job writing lyrics for King's music. The audience can tell Goffin becomes increasingly frustrated as he feels he has missed out on vital experiences as a consequence of growing up at a young age. Brewer also had an astounding voice. His most notable performances include "Some Kind of Wonderful" and "Take Good Care of My Baby".
The supporting characters of Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, played by Jacob Heimer and Sarah Goeke added a special element to Carole King's story. Heimer had a comedic quality that left me laughing after almost every scene he was in. Throughout Act I, Heimer did not have a song, then an amazing voice broke out in "Walking in the Rain" and "We Gotta Get Out of This Place". When Sarah Goeke walked on stage, I assumed she would be the character I would not like and would be pitted up against King. However, it was quickly acknowledged that the pair were friends and had a supportive and competitive relationship throughout their entire careers. Goeke's "Happy Days Are Here Again" exhibited her great talent. Both characters provided comic relief throughout the entire show and never missed a beat with sarcastic side comments.
The entire ensemble was phenomenal. From the dancing and singing, to the jaw dropping costume changes. The most memorable on-stage costume change was Little Eva, played by Alexis Tidwell, who changed from the Goffin's babysitter to a lead singer in the number "Locomotion".
Beautiful: The Carole King Musical is such a thrilling experience for audience members of all generations. The songs are so iconic, every audience member will pick up on them and find themselves humming to the tunes long after the show is over. Beautiful will be in Jacksonville now through April 15.