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Review: The National Tour of BEAUTIFUL: THE CAROLE KING MUSICAL Opens at the Academy of Music

Beautiful: The Carole King Musical runs February 22 - 27, 2022.

Beautiful: The Carole King Musical

The jukebox musical is a genre of musical theatre that is not always easy to get right. One trap that the jukebox musical can fall into is relying too heavily on the audience's built-in knowledge of, and appreciation for, the songs featured in the show. What can result is an underdeveloped book, where the plot is used only to skim the audience through to the next number, turning the musical into a visual 'Greatest Hits' album. Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, which opened last night at the Kimmel Cultural Campus' Academy of Music, is an example of a jukebox musical done perfectly.

A concise, cleverly written portrait of Carole King's meteoric rise in the music industry, Beautiful is moving, uplifting, comedic, and narratively satisfying. Every character in the show is given the same amount of care and attention, and the songs are placed where they can best serve the story. The audience in the Academy of Music last night was atwitter with excitement upon hearing the first notes of a song they recognized, but were every bit as responsive to the scenes in between. For each head that was bopping along to the music, there was a pair of hands clapping for the character's triumphs.

From the moment you see Sara Sheperd on stage as Carole King, a familiar figure sitting confidently behind the keys of a grand piano, you root for her intrinsically. There is a quality of warmth and confidence from Sheperd that reaches the audience immediately. You are on her side as Carole from the start, and trust, from those first notes at the piano, that she will take the story where it needs to go. Beautiful's Carole King is a funny, strong, sympathetic, capable character. Sheperd's talents as both a singer and comedian allow you to feel as if you are getting to know one of the world's most famous singer-songwriters, without feeling like you are watching an impression.

James D. Gish is compelling as Gerry Goffin, Carole's husband and songwriting partner. You need to sense from the get-go that Gerry has a darkness inside him that Carole does not have, to know from his first interaction with Carole that he might bring her pain, and still as an audience member, root for him to succeed. Gish strikes a balance between the bad boy of Carole Klein from Brooklyn's dreams, the loving songwriting partner by her side as they rise to historic success, and the husband who will break her heart.

Sara King and Ryan Farnsworth as Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann- Carole and Gerry's number one competitors as well as their best friends- are fantastic as individual performers, as onstage partners, and as the counterpoint to Sheperd and Gish's Carole and Gerry. The friendship between these four real-life talents lies at the heart of this show, and the dynamics between them are captured wonderfully here. King is magnetic onstage as the self-assured, smart, and hip Cynthia Weil, sharing quips and chemistry with Farnsworth as the lovable and neurotic Barry.

One of the most positive aspects of this musical is the unwavering support and complete lack of cattiness between its lead female characters. Even as direct competitors whose differences are clear -and pointedly noted more than once by Gerry and his wandering eye-the respect and love that Carole and Cynthia have for one another is never called into question.

We all go to the theater to feel something. And what you feel at Beautiful: The Carole King Musical is, simply, good. So good in fact, that the sound of people humming the show's songs could be heard up and down the aisles as the audience practically skipped out of the theater. We could all use something at this time that lifts us up and makes us want to sing and dance. The National Tour of Beautiful: The Carole King Musical does that and more.

The Kimmel Cultural Campus presents Tony & Grammy Award-winning Broadway hit Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, about the early life and career of the legendary and groundbreaking singer/songwriter, February 22 - 27, 2022, at the Campus' Academy of Music.

Tickets can be purchased by calling 215-893-1999 or online at

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