Review: BEAUTIFUL: THE CAROLE KING MUSICAL at Village Theatre

Village Theatre presents the life of an icon.

By: Nov. 18, 2023
Review: BEAUTIFUL: THE CAROLE KING MUSICAL at Village Theatre
Review: BEAUTIFUL: THE CAROLE KING MUSICAL at Village Theatre
Jason Kappus and Sarah Rose Davis in
Beautiful: The Carole King Musical
at Village Theatre.
Photo credit: Auston James

First off, Dear Readers, I need to put it out there that “Beautiful: The Carole King Story” is one of the few bio-musicals that gets it right.  Sure, it’s got killer music from an icon but the book from Douglas McGrath is, in a word, beautiful.  But beyond my affinity for this show, I also need to put it out there that the current production from Village Theatre is also a thing of beauty in the efforts from both the cast and crew, and amounts to one of my favorite things, theatrical alchemy.  All the parts come together to form magic.

As you may have guessed, the show takes us through the life of music superstar Carole King (Sarah Rose Davis).  From her early beginnings as a young songwriter in the 60’s, to her eventual collaboration with Gerry Goffin (Jason Kappus) who would become her husband, through to her solo performance at Carnegie Hall for her massive hit album, “Tapestry”. 

But beyond what so many shows like this lean on, which is a list of hits from the artist (“and then we sang this song, and then we sang this song”), “Beautiful” brilliantly dives into the process of their songwriting and how those songs echoed aspects of their own lives, navigating not only the industry but their own rocky marriage.  And along for the ride is the story of songwriters Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann (Krystle Armstrong-Alan and Adam Marino), King and Goffin’s best friends and main competition in the songwriting game.  So, we get this incredible two-fer of a story.

Director and choreographer Lisa Shriver has created a near perfect show.  Not only does this show fly by with an incredible pace and a seemingly effortless flow, but her choreography for these iconic groups is spot on.  And when combined with stunning costumes from Melanie Taylor Burgess, and killer lights and projections from Robert J. Aguilar and Ahren Buhmann, the good times of this show just do not stop.  And I must mention the outstanding music direction from R.J. Tancioco and his amazing band, bringing to life that music as it took us through the years. 

Review: BEAUTIFUL: THE CAROLE KING MUSICAL at Village Theatre
Montel Butler, Nehemiah Hooks,
Charles L. Simmons, and Chandler T. Thomas
in Beautiful: The Carole King Musical
at Village Theatre.
Photo credit: Auston James

But it’s this cast that truly brings in the goods.  First, this ensemble is from the gods.  Not only do they need to fill out each scene but also have to pull double, often triple duty as the various hitmakers of the time, such as Little Eva, Neil Sedaka, and The Shirelles to name just a few.  Every single one of them absolute stars but I have to call out some showstoppers.  Matthew Posner and Jason Weitkamp killed it as the swoon worthy Righteous Brothers, but I also need to comment on the hilarious glances, asides, and sheer comic genius of Weitkamp.  He had us all in stitches with hardly a word.  But the absolute showstopper, bring down the house moments had to come from Montel Butler, Nehemiah Hooks, Charles L. Simmons, and Chandler T. Thomas as The Drifters.  These four had every nuance and move down and gave us some thrilling vocals. 

Avery Clark as music producer Don Kirshner and Angela DiMarco as Genie Klein, King’s mother, may have had the few not so musical roles in the show but they were by no means throwaway parts.  DiMarco gives us the perfect meddling mother and an obvious template from which King sprang.  And Clark could have simply been the guy who said yes or no to their songs, but his portrayal brought out a fully realized human along with some hysterical moments.

Armstrong-Alan and Marino manage the perfect competition for King and Goffin while still taking on their own relationship issues.  And their vocals are sublime, but then everyone in this show can claim that.

But this is the Carole King musical, so we need a strong King and Goffin to sell it.  Let’s start with Goffin.  Kappus gives an incredible performance as we watch this supremely talented man, sabotage his own life and career.  The arc throughout this show is heartbreakingly tragic.  And if I had one complaint about his performance it’s that he doesn’t get to sing enough.  It’s simply part of the role that just as he would get going on one of the songs, they’d hand it off to one of the groups that made them famous.  So just when you start to melt into those velvet tones of his, they’d snatch them away from us.  But what we heard was outstanding. 

And then there’s Davis as King.  I’ve seen her in many things over the years including a stunning Fanny Brice in “Funny Girl” a few years back, but this performance is one for the ages.  Her King is a complete star turn.  She manages the emotional and storytelling side of the performance beautifully (there’s that word again) but her vocals are unmatched.  Not only crystal clear and super powerful and engaged into the emotion of the moment, but you’d have thought you were listening to Carole King on that stage.  This is her best performance yet and she takes this iconic role and runs away with it.

This is, to put it simply, a must-see show.  And so, with my three-letter rating system, I give Village Theatre’s production of “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical” a blown away, sang all the way home YAY+.  If you saw the original Broadway or the tour a few years ago, relive that magic with this stunning and rivaling production.  If you’ve never seen it, do yourself a favor, go now, go often.

“Beautiful: The Carole King Musical” performs at Village Theatre in Issaquah through December 23rd before moving to their Everett location running January 6th through 28th.  For tickets or information visit them online at www.villagetheatre.org.




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