BWW Review: BEAUTIFUL THE CAROLE KING MUSICAL at The Straz Center

BWW Review: BEAUTIFUL THE CAROLE KING MUSICAL at The Straz Center

Beautiful The Carole King Musical is presented as a bio-jukebox musical featuring beloved Carole King standards including "I Feel The Earth Move," "One Fine Day," "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman," "You've Got A Friend" and the title song "Beautiful". We follow Carole King's tremendous career from a plucky teenager pitching songs to Don Kirshner to the her opening night at Carnegie Hall.

When the curtain rises we are transported to Carnegie Hall in 1971 where Carole King (Sarah Bockel) sits at the piano and sings "So Far Away". We are then whisked off to 1958 Brooklyn where16-year-old Carole Kline tells her mother, Genie (Suzanne Grodner) she is going into Manhattan to try to sell a song to Aldon Music's publisher Donnie Kirshner (James Clow). Genie is opposed to her daughter's wish but Carole has a friend accompany her. Although she did not have an appointment, Kirshner, known as "The Man With the Golden Ear", liked her spunk and granted her the opportunity to sing for him. As they say, the rest is history. However that history for Carole King was clouded by many ups and downs in her professional and private life. This show allows us to peer behind the curtain and come to know Carole in her other roles as daughter, wife, and mother. As she reached down deep inside to write some of the most iconic songs we all know and treasure, little did we know the depth from which those songs arose or the character and dignity she maintained to sustain herself.

Carole meets Gerry Goffin (Andrew Brewer) in college. She was a bright young lady enrolled in Queens College at sixteen. Gerry was a lyricist and the two decided to collaborate. At the tender age of 16 Carole also finds herself pregnant and scared but Gerry does the right thing by asking her to marry him. Soon the pressure of holding down jobs, writing constantly and trying to raise a family is too much for Gerry to handle. He almost seems bi-polar at times. Then he starts a string of affairs.

Tensions are lessened by friends who offer healthy competition, pitching songs to Kirshner. The chic lyricist Cynthia Weil (Sarah Groke), and hypochondriac composer Barry Mann (Jacob Heimer) befriend and love them both through their turmoil. Throughout the production many of the musical numbers from the King-Goffin-Weil-Mann catalogue is played out in the same manner. The writers gather around a piano to birth new melodies then with a swift change of staging and actors, the performers who made the songs famous appear and perform their rendition in its entirety. This is where the audience is gifted with "appearances" if you will, by The Drifters, Marilyn Ward, Janelle Woods, The Shirelles, Little Eva, and The Righteous Brothers. Neil Sedaka (John Michael Diaz) is thrown in for good measure in an ingeniously funny way.

In the closing of Act l, Carole and Gerry are at the taping of a TV special where their new song, "One Fine Day", is being performed by Janelle Woods. During a break from the taping, and not in the best of timing, Gerry confesses to Carole that he wants to have an affair with Janelle. He rationalizes its ok as long as he's being honest about it. Carole is surprised and devastated. When the taping resumes Carole takes over and sings the song herself with a whole new meaning.

In Act ll, Carole is in a studio recording a demo of "Chains" while Gerry is somewhere with Janelle. Carole decides she is going to tell Gerry to end the affair with Janelle. When Gerry shows up, he is not acting like himself and eventually has a breakdown. Later at the hospital, he tells Carole he will end the affair and wants to come home. She suggests they make a new start and move to the suburbs. This is how the song "Pleasant Valley Sunday" comes about.

Barry, Cynthia and Donnie come to see the new house in the country. Barry plays their new song, "We Gotta Get Out of This Place". Gerry is not feeling any better after being released from the hospital and excuses himself to go to the city. In his absence Barry and Cynthia tell Carole that Gerry has been seen with a singer named Marilyn Wald. Carole goes to Marilyn's apartment and Gerry comes to the door. Carole has had enough and ends their marriage then and there.

Carole tells Barry and Cynthia that she went to Los Angeles for a vacation and has started writing on her own. Nick, the guitarist from the studio who asked her to sing with his group, is playing there and urges her to sing. She sings her new song, "It's Too Late" and decides to move to Los Angeles. Back at the publishing house in New York she sings goodbye to Donnie, Barry and Cynthia with "You've Got a Friend".

In Los Angeles, she records her album, Tapestry. The recording session goes well until the last song, which is too painful to sing. It's a song she wrote with Gerry but her producer, Lou Adler, persuades her to sing, "(You Make Me Feel Like A Natural Woman)".

Now we are back in Carnegie Hall where this production started. Backstage before her concert, Gerry visits her dressing room bringing a book she joked about when she first started writing music. He also delivers a heartfelt apology. Carole comes onto the stage, sits at the piano and sings "Beautiful".

Besides the glamorous sets and era-appropriate costumes and choreography, the real storyline of Beautiful is about Carole King's evolution as a composer and performer, allowing herself to put her powerful voice behind the songs she was writing for others which catapulted her career into the stratosphere and into our hearts.

Sarah Bockel was stunning as Carole King. She not only had the pipes to bring these songs to life, she brilliantly embodied Carole at the piano. Suzanne Grodner as Carole's mother Genie added a great touch of humor that played out well throughout the production. John Michael Dias as Neil Sedaka also added a spark of humor that was playfully entertaining. Andrew Brewer was the guy you loved to hate only because of the character he was playing but he did Gerry justice in showing his tormented yet artistically talented side. James Clow played the easy going Kirshner with a rock steady temperament. Sarah Goeke and Jacob Heimer as Cynthia and Barry got to show off their vocal prowess in several songs and added a touch of warmth and understanding to their relationship with Gerry and Carole. The cast as a whole worked beautifully together, especially the vocals from McKynleigh Alden Abraham as Janelle Woods and Alexis Tidwell as the bubbly and bright Little Eva.

Beautiful runs through April 1, 2018 at the Straz Center in Tampa. For more information visit www.strazcenter.org.




Related Articles

NationalTours THEATER Stories | Shows


From This Author Carolan Trbovich

Before you go...

Like Us On Facebook
Follow Us On Twitter
Follow Us On Instagram