BWW Review: BEAUTIFUL: THE CAROLE KING MUSICAL Toe-taps Its Way to the Altria Theater
As the lyric goes, BEAUTIFUL at the Altria Theater is "Some Kind of Wonderful" and offers a Broadway experience that is unique in today's circuit of musical tours. Every member of the production on stage in Richmond is part of Actors' Equity Association, the union for professional actors. Complementing the big-voiced and talented cast is a live orchestra, another rarity in today's national tours.
Audiences expecting another jukebox musical in the vein of ALL SHOOK UP or MOVIN' OUT will be pleasantly surprised with BEAUTIFUL. True, the show is jam-packed with energetic performances, spirited choreography and timeless hits that transcend generation after generation, but THE Carole King MUSICAL is deeper and offers more substance than other musicals in the category. For all the joy and success of Ms. King, there is equal struggle and heartbreak.
At the outset of the production, Carole King (Broadway's Julia Knitel) sits down at a grand piano in front of a Carnegie Hall audience and strums away to "So Far Away." As the audience sets in for a one-woman concert, they are whisked away to the living room of Genie Klein where King's musical career began.
Derek McLane's scenic design is a patchwork of microphones, lighting, guitars, and recording equipment. His sets move on and off seamlessly, transporting audiences to different settings with ease. Peter Kaczorowski's lighting sets the mood and depicts atmosphere. His lighting is especially effective in performance numbers, such as The Drifters "On Broadway" and The Shirelles' "Will You Love Me Tomorrow." Alejo Vietti's colorful and attractive costumes are authentic of the 60s and 70s.
Knitel is infectious, portraying the singer-songwriter with ease. It's during her most vulnerable moments, such as with her happy-turned-turbulent marriage to Gerry Goffin, where audiences connect with her most. The act one finale offers a heartbreaking rendition of "One Fine Day." It's because of this pain that she evolves, from songwriter, into one of the most successful performers of a generation. Her vocals are pitch-perfect, though the Righteous Brothers' (played by Andrew Brewer and Jacob Heimer) performance of "You've Lost that Lovin' Feeling" is truly a nostalgic moment.
As Goffin, Liam Tobin is at first amiable and carries a strong voice. Also central to King's story, Erika Olson and and James Michael Lambert offer great contrast to the fledgling relationship of King and Goffen as Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann. As Don Kirshner, James Clow, brings life and great comedic timing to what could easily be a one-dimensional role.
The production's quick pace, funny book and smart staging make this a must-see.
BEAUTIFUL is enjoyable for ages 12+ and runs through April 30 at the Altria Theater in Richmond.