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BWW Review: BEAUTIFUL at the Eccles is High Quality

The national tour of BEAUTIFUL is the first Broadway show to play at the brand-new Eccles Theater, and it is a more than worthy tenant. In fact, the high quality of the production is ample proof of the embarrassment of riches the theater is sure to attract.

BEAUTIFUL: THE Carole King MUSICAL (book by Douglas McGrath) tells the life story of Carole King using her songs and those of her contemporaries, especially Gerry Goffin, Cynthia Weill, and Barry Mann. The Broadway production was nominated for a slew of Tony Awards in 2014, winning Best Actress for star Jessie Mueller. As a 16-year-old, King sells her first song and meets her writing partner and husband-to-be Goffin. The life they share together and with friends and fellow songwriters Weill and Mann is filled with friendly competition and fraught with personal difficulties, but the troubles only help King to truly discover her own voice.

Julia Knitel is magnetic as Carole King, with an understated disposition but a singing voice that creates sparks. Liam Tobin as Gerry Goffin, Erika Olson as Cynthia Weill, and Ben Fankhauser (Davey in the original Broadway cast of NEWSIES) as Barry Mann are every bit her equals as they create characters that feel real and lived in, which is rightly deserved by the individuals they are portraying.

The vocals of all four leads are exquisite. They are Broadway-quality and offer so much to be appreciated, from their sheer power to their nuanced detail. In the same vein, every ensemble member and supporting player offers incredible vocals that meet the same high bar.

The entire production (reproduced from the Broadway iteration) matches the minimalist but electrifying vibe of Carole King and her music. The smooth choreography by Josh Prince (SHREK THE MUSICAL), sparse but satisfying set design by Derek McClane (LITTLE WOMEN), setting-establishing costume design by Alejo Vietti (ALLEGIANCE), and striking lighting design by Peter Kaczorowski (THE PRODUCERS) all work and play together to create the world that created the music of a generation and beyond.

BEAUTIFUL plays the Eccles Theater for a limited engagement through Sunday, November 20, 2016. For tickets, call ArtTix at 801-355-ARTS (2787) or visit www.artsaltlake.org.

Photo Credit: Joan Marcus. Julia Knitel (Carole King)


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