I didn't realize how much of a Carole King fan I was, until after spending two-plus hours listening to her songbook in the national touring production of BEAUTIFUL: The Carole King Musical.

Who knew she co-wrote "Some Kind of Wonderful" (The Drifters), "Take Good Care of My Baby" (Bobby Vee), "Will You Love Me Tomorrow" (The Shirelles), "The Locomotion" (Little Eva), "A Natural Woman" (Aretha Franklin), and so many other popular tunes-of-the-time with then husband Gerry Goffin? Not me.

It's easy to get lost in King's music, while reveling in the humor and pathos that Douglas McGrath penned for her backstory in the libretto. Derek McLane's scenic design and transitions were remarkable, as was Alejo Vietti's costuming - especially Little Eva's transition from babysitter to pop star.

Julia Knitel makes the leap from Broadway understudy to take the lead with ease. As Bruno Tonioli on ABC's DANCING WITH THE STARS might say, "She sings! She plays piano! And she does it all with such grace, that one forgets the actress and sees only Carole King!"

Liam Tobin (Goffin) delivers a strong performance by contributing more than his share to a rocky relationship that fueled two songwriting careers and eventually destroyed their marriage.

As Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann, Erika Olson and Ben Fankhauser portray another prolific songwriting duo in the Brill Building music factory. Fankhauser has many of McGrath's best one-liners and delivers some of the most surprisingly versatile musical performances.

I was joined by my wife and mother-in-law, who share a love for Carole King's music. As they opened their programs, Andrea hoped to find the title song to "Tapestry" among the musical numbers, while Joan searched for "I Feel the Earth Move".

Were it not for the encore, Joan might've been disappointed, but Andrea was happy with two other cuts from King's Grammy-winning album, "You've Got a Friend" and "Beautiful" I enjoyed it all, including the medley of doo-wop ditties.

BEAUTIFUL is some kind of wonderful. So, put down that turkey leg and order your tickets now before the final performance at ASU Gammage on Sunday evening, Nov. 27.

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From This Author Lee Cooley

Lee Cooley Lee Cooley started freelancing as a film critic in 1978 and began reviewing plays in 2011. After more than 20 years in TV, radio and (read more...)

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