BWW Blog: 'One Fine Day' at the BEAUTIFUL U.S. Tour
Beautiful was the first show I saw on my own on Broadway. Carole King's music has become part of my soundtrack of my life as I've grown older. I remember my seventh grade art teacher would always play You've Got a Friend at the end of every class-which kind of drove me crazy, but as time has gone on I recognize how beautiful, simple, and poignant that song can be. Carole King forged a path for female songwriters in America. If I hadn't seen this show, I wouldn't have known! I knew I had to bring my family to see the touring production at Durham Performing Arts Center for Mother's Day.
Beautiful is not your typical jukebox musical. Writer Douglas McGrath does an exceptional job of weaving Carole King's life story into the chronology of her songs. The plot moves quickly, captures your attention, yet doesn't feel rushed. The set design by Derek McLane contributes to this swiftness. The large pieces of the set move on tracks on and off the stage, which creates effective scene changes without taking away from the dialogue. The first act covers about twenty years of Carole's adolescence, love story, and birth of her career. This is an enormous feat to accomplish, yet the book flows effortlessly.
The touring cast was outstanding. Sarah Bockel brought a softness and vulnerability to Carole that I had not seen before. Her opening monologue, as she performs at Carnegie Hall for the first time, was emotional and tender. Even from our seats high up in the balcony, I could see the depth of her story through her body language. While her version of Carole was very impassioned, Bockel also embraced her comedic nature. Dylan Wallach introduced us to a very youthful, flirtatious Gerry Goffin. This charm and mischievousness were just two elements that laid the foundation for the heart-wrenching Gerry we meet later. I loved the softness that Jacob Heimer brought to Barry Mann, yet I felt as though he chose to shy away from some of his key comedic moments-especially his first few moments in the show, when he reveals that he is a hypochondriac. I have always drawn a parallel between Barry and Dr. Pomatter from Waitress-both sweet and well-meaning, though a bit awkward.
Many of the pieces throughout the show were performed on television, radio, or the stage, and the blocking and placing made this believable. The television entrances and exits when Carole, her mother, and Betty are watching American Bandstand on their television set added to the humor of the show. Another element that I enjoyed about this show was the costuming. Covering a span of years that long is difficult in terms of costuming, but designer Alejo Vietti made it look very easy. There were the everyday clothes that reflected the time period, as well as the eye-catching, flashy, costumes the musicians wore to their performances. I especially loved the lightning-fast costume change that happened on stage before "The Locomotion."
While reflecting on the cast I saw in December 2017, it reminded me that every actor brings a different energy and perspective to the characters. You will never see the same performance twice, because every actor incorporates different elements, characteristics, and life experience to the character. This is one of the many reasons I love live theatre! I was one of the only young people to enter those doors that day, which I realized what a shame it was when I found myself fully engrossed in the show! I was encouraged to see more younger people at the DPAC show, and it was sweet to see them connect with their parents and grandparents about the songs of their youth. If you're interested in learning about the birth of classic American hits, then look no further than Beautiful. This show is engaging, hilarious, and touching all at once. It has something for everyone, and brings a story to life that needs to be told.