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BWW Review: BEAUTIFUL-THE CAROLE KING MUSICAL is Some Kind of Wonderful at California Musical Theatre

BWW Review: BEAUTIFUL-THE CAROLE KING MUSICAL is Some Kind of Wonderful at California Musical Theatre

Beautiful-The Carole King Musical is more than a jukebox musical. It's a very personal glimpse into the life of a woman who shaped American music. It's a story of ambition, heartbreak, and redemption. Carole King's tale is touching and empowering and will resonate with anyone who has ever had their heart broken.

The show begins with Carole King (Sarah Bockel) playing "So Far Away" at Carnegie Hall following the success of her album, Tapestry. Bockel exudes a friendly, unpretentious demeanor that draws you in immediately. It then segues to the past, where you see a 16 year old Carol Klein (pre- nom de plume Carole King) telling her mother in no uncertain terms that she is going to New York City to try to sell her songs. After having some success, she meets her future husband and writing partner, Gerry Goffin (Andrew Brewer), at Queens College. A whirlwind romance follows, and King finds herself pregnant and married at 17. She and Goffin produce a string of hits under Don Kirshner's label, including "Up on the Roof" and "Some Kind of Wonderful" for The Drifters. Their song "Will You Love Me Tomorrow", performed by The Shirelles, garnered the first number one hit by an African-American female group.

The story then goes on to explore the friendship between the Goffins and another songwriting team, Cynthia Weil (Sarah Goeke) and Barry Mann (Jacob Heimer). A healthy competition ensues and produces such hits as "On Broadway" (Weil/Mann), "The Locomotion" (performed by the Goffins' real-life babysitter, Little Eva), "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling" (Weil/Mann) and "One Fine Day" (King/Goffin). During this time, Goffin starts to exhibit signs of mental illness and expresses his desire to spread his wings outside of the marriage. Trying to keep up with the changing music scene and feeling suffocated in the suburbs is too much for Goffin to handle. Once King has had enough, she tells Gerry (to the deafening cheers of the female audience members), "The girls deserve better. And you know what? So do I." It is then that she takes her two young daughters to start anew in California and ultimately finds the voice that defined the 1970s woman.

Bockel, who is a Broadway alumnus of Beautiful, mimics perfectly the grainy, unique vocals that make King so recognizable. She was able to portray King as a vulnerable mother who becomes a feminist figurehead as she tells Goffin that she has had enough in "It's Too Late" and later gives us a beacon of hope in "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman." Part of what makes this show successful is the honest portrayal of King as every woman. She is relatable and we have all experienced what she pours out in her songs.

Brewer, another Broadway veteran of the show, begins as an idealistic 19 year old boy that naturally morphs into a young man, married too young, who is longing to experience all that life has to offer. We want him to do the right thing, but know that he is too broken to do so and, somehow, that is ok. He manages to work his way back into the hearts of the audience by being raw and honest and, eventually, contrite.

Rounding out the cast is a talented ensemble who energetically execute Josh Prince's simple, yet stunning, choreography. We are transported back to a time when boy bands wore suits and moved in perfect sync, now having forgotten the beauty in simplicity. The only oddity that I saw was the Righteous Brothers, who came across as mafia bodyguards in ill-fitting formal wear.

King's success may have come in part from what Kirshner told her, "Because you're a girl and you sing girl songs." I think it's more than that. Bockel shows us that King is joy and strength personified. That's something that all generations want a part of.

Beautiful-The Carole King Musical plays from November 1-12 at California Musical Theatre in Sacramento. Tickets are available at the Wells Fargo Pavilion Box Office, (916) 557-1999, or the Community Center Theater Box Office, (916) 808-5181. They are also available online at

Photo Credit: Matthew Murphy

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