BWW Interview: Kathryn Boswell of BEAUTIFUL - THE CAROLE KING MUSICAL at Peace Center
The show features an array of beloved songs including "I Feel The Earth Move," "One Fine Day," "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman," "You've Got A Friend". But even more important than the songs are the relationships, both between King and her husband, Gerry Goffin, and with fellow writers (and best friends) Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann.
Please tell us a little bit about yourself.
I actually grew up overseas in the Solomon Islands, which is off the coast of Australia. My parents worked on linguistics, so I really didn't have a lot of exposure to theatre as a young kid. But I did have a lot of exposure to music. My parents were super involved musically with the community and we used to sing together all the time. My dad plays guitar. So I think that's kind of how I got into this crazy biz. We moved back to the States when I was about 10, and then I started doing some theatre and got bit with the bug and pursued it professionally. I went to college at the University of Cincinnati in Ohio - at the conservatory there - and really had a great time, then moved to New York, where I've been for, I guess, over seven years now. And I've been doing this professionally ever since. This is my first national tour. I've done a couple of Broadway shows, but this is my first time being on the road, and it's really fun.
Where are you right now?
Right now we're in Clearwater, Florida. And we'll be doing a couple of Florida cities. And then we'll be jumping up to Wallingford, Connecticut, and then down to you guys in Greenville - kind of all over the place.
And you're enjoying the tour life?
I am. It's really fun. I mean, it's really special to take a show on the road because each night the audience is different. And audiences are different based on where we are in the country - they all have their own unique attributes. And it's really special to bring this show specifically to a lot of people, because Carole King's music has such a special place in people's hearts. It really is incredible to learn about everything that went into her songwriting process and how she became such an incredible artist.
I remember really loving it. It's just tremendous. And we all know that music, but to see the story...
Yeah, I was truly shocked the first time I saw just how many different songs these songwriting duos actually wrote, because, for the longest time, I had only heard her TAPESTRY album. I didn't know that she was a part of all these other huge songs and huge hits before that time.
So how does it feel to step into the role of someone as legendary as Cynthia Weil?
At first I was really scared because Cynthia Weil is still around and very much involved in the show - which is really cool because then you feel like it's very much an honor to tell her story. To be honest, I think she's truly a pioneer in her field and still stands as a symbol for women, you know, just breaking the mold and jumping in and doing things. And she's very headstrong as a person still, so I was a little nervous when she saw the show. Would she like how I'm playing her, and how does that feel? But it actually is really, really awesome. She's super encouraging and supportive, and everything about her character is so fun. She has depth and grit but is also just really funny. And I definitely sometimes do feel the pressure of making sure I live up to her standards. But I love it because now I can actually go and research this woman, you know? I've never gotten to do that before, where I have someone in my mind.
How was that process different for you?
I watched a lot of videos and listened to a lot of people talk about her, and also watched her a lot on these documentaries, really trying to figure out what attributes I could take from her. I mean, truthfully, the story as told in the musical is a little bit tweaked. So what's nice about that is that I could take parts, but not have to do it verbatim. I could still make it my own, which is lovely. And I'm really thankful that she gave us permission to do that.
That's the beauty of this form, isn't it? Where you can approach the truth of a character and the truth of a story with a different cast and bring whole new things to it.
Absolutely. But at the end of the day, what's really neat about it is that I do feel like I have a different kind of responsibility with it to tell it truthfully, and that keeps me focused and keeps me paying homage to this wonderful woman. As opposed to sometimes you do shows and you just go through the motions, and because it's a character you've created you feel like you have leeway and freedom in that. But it's really actually very nice to stay focused and to really honor her the way that she should be honored.
That's great. So when was the first time you saw the show?
I saw it in previews before it even opened on Broadway. And I've had friends go in and out of the show for years. So it's been really awesome for me to have been an audience member before with the show a lot. And I never went in to audition for it or anything until this tour. And I'm glad it came when it did, because I feel like I have a strong appreciation as an audience member for what this story can do for people, and how it feels to be in the audience. I understand when you can feel the anticipation of "Oh, this song is about to come on," or "I love this song!" Because it sort of leads up to certain songs and that's a very fun feeling.
Oh, gosh, yeah, I love that. So tell me, for people who haven't seen the show, what it's basically about.
It really encapsulates Carole King and her story from start to finish, from where she began as a young songwriter when she was 16 - which is crazy, you know? It kind of blows my mind that that is when she started. And the show takes you through her whole life and her relationship with Gerry Goffin and relationship with Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann and how they had this - I want to say "frenemy," in a good way, kind of relationship where they were pushing each other to be the best that they can be. And it talks a lot about 1650 Broadway, which is where all the great songs were written at the time for the Drifters and the Shirelles. And it really does cover decades of music. And, you know, sometimes when I think about that, I'm like, wow, this is really covering a lot, how are we able to do that? But somehow the story is told so seamlessly that it is a lovely journey through her whole life - and her whole experience as a songwriter, and her personal life, and how the music is influenced by her personal life, and when they wrote certain things. It really puts a lot of context to what she created and what she was able to create.
What are your some of your favorite parts?
To be quite honest, I get a front row seat all the time to watch Kennedy Caughell sing Carole King's music. And while it's really fun to be in the audience for all the first act songs where the Drifters are singing and all that stuff, it's fun to be a part of that on stage, too. But what's really fun about being on stage is that I get to sit and watch Kennedy sing these incredible songs night after night, like "It's Too Late." I get a front row seat for that. And certain songs are really truly special moments in time, and it feels special when she's singing those, and I'm very thankful that I get a front row seat for that.
Gosh, I got chills just thinking about that. So what what do you think audiences take away from this or what do you hope to show through this?
These are songs that really did shape a generation - her TAPESTRY album as well as the songs that she wrote with her writing partners, and her competing partners. And I think we just want people to feel a sense of ownership with it, too, because her story is our story. It's everybody's story. Because who she was as a woman is so relatable and so wonderful and down to earth. And I think people will really connect with the story as well as the songs.
BEAUTIFUL - THE Carole King MUSICAL runs Dec. 31, 2019-Jan. 5, 2020 at the Peace Center in Greenville, SC. Tickets may be purchased by calling 864.467.3000 or 800.888.7768, in person at the Peace Center Box Office, or online at www.peacecenter.org.
Photo credit: Joan Marcus