Paul Blake/ATV Music Publishing
and Jeremiah J. Harris
The Carole King Musical
Book by Douglas McGrath
Words and Music by Gerry Goffin & Carole King
Barry Mann & Cynthia Weil
(Music by Arrangement with Sony/ATV Music Publishing)
Starring: Jessie Mueller
Jake Epstein, Sara King, Jarrod Spector
Jeb Brown, Liz Larsen
And an ensemble of actors/singers/dancers
Directed by Marc Bruni
Choreography by Josh Prince
Stephen Sondheim Theatre
124 West 43rd Street
Scenic Design: Derek McLane
Costume Design: Alejo Vietti
Lighting Design: Peter Kaczorowski
Sound Design: Brian Ronan
Hair & Wig Design: Charles G. LaPointe
Makeup Design: Joe Dulude II
Casting: Stephen Kopel, CSA
Press Representative: O&M, Co.
Production Stage Manager: Peter Hanson
General Manager: The Charlotte Wilcox Company
Orchestrations, Vocal, Music Arrangements: Steve Sidwell
Music Supervision, Additional Music Arrangements: Jason Howland
Production Management: Juniper Street Productions, Inc.
Music Coordinator: John Miller
Executive Producers: Sherry Kondor, Christine Russell
Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
February 26, 2014 Matinee
The new Douglas McGrath musical, Beautiful, about Carole King, is one of the most unassuming, melodic, poignant new musicals on stage this season. Maybe that’s because the music is already built into the psyches of the majority of today’s Broadway audiences. The Carole King-Gerry Goffin and Barry Mann-Cynthia Weill collaborative originals, like “Beautiful”, “One Fine Day”, “Some Kind of Wonderful”, “Take Good Care of My Baby”, and “Walking In the Rain” are just some of the audience favorites. In fact, as each song was queued up, members of the audience nearby would utter gasps of joy or hum a note. The story develops from Carole’s (Jessie Mueller) Brooklyn home, with some mother (Liz Larsen)-daughter poignant humor. Carole’s boyfriend and early collaborator, Gerry Goffin (Jake Epstein) soon marry, move to the suburbs with kids, divorce, and spend lots of time with fellow artist-composers Cynthia Weill (Sara King) and Barry Mann (Jarrod Spector). The audience is educated about the challenges and angst of the song-writing-recording business, and the Brill Building becomes another star (“1650 Broadway Melody”). Competition is omnipresent, and fate can change on a dime.
Jeb Brown is music producer, Don Kirshner, and his studio rehearsals rapidly shift from tentative theme to recording sessions, with an ensemble in character of The Drifters (“Up On the Roof”), The Shirelles (“Will You Love Me Tomorrow”), Little Eva (Ashley Blanchet), who gets her break as Carole and Gerry’s babysitter (“The Locomotion”), and The Righteous Brothers (“You’ve Lost that Lovin’ Feeling”). The post-divorce scenes, with Carole backstage and onstage at Carnegie Hall (a scene repeated from the prologue), celebrate her new album “Tapestry”, as she sings “A Natural Woman”. The biographical theme is written for inspiration (her courage to leave New York for LA), audience identification (it applauds her tossing of the cheating Goffin and it bounces in the seats with each familiar refrain), and a rare, natural innocence. Ms. King is portrayed as a loyal wife, mother, friend, and artist, almost too good to be true. Everybody roots for her success and survival; the audience leaves with the orchestra pumping back the tunes.
Ms. Mueller has pure, clear, vocal talent, a virtuoso on the rise, since her fantastic role in On a Clear Day You Can See Forever, and she’s always “on”, always forceful, always engaging. Mr. Epstein as Goffin is well cast for charm, seduction, and nervous energy. Mr. Spector as Mann is driven, dynamic, and devoted to Weill, while Ms. King as Weill is clever, coy, and beguiling. Ms. Larsen as Genie Klein is outsized and hilarious. Mr. Brown as Don Kirshner has the hard-driving pop music persona nailed down, but then he softens into best friend to his pros. Marc Bruni has directed to morph newly practiced tunes to immediate gratification of production level song and lyrics. Derek McLane’s multilevel scenic studio design that switches to suburban haven is magnetic and remarkable. Alejo Vietti’s costumes bring simplicity to the leads and extra-pizazz to the background singers, including a brief performance by Kevin Duda as Neil Sedaka (“Oh, Carol”), one of Carole’s first beaus. Yes, he knew Carole when she was Carol. Peter Kaczorowski’s lighting keeps the action in the multilevel boxed set warm and luminous, while Brian Ronan’s sound design is critical to the multi-volume, multi-tune, multi-tempo score. Steve Sidwell’s orchestrations keep the joint hopping. Kudos to Jessie Mueller, and kudos to Carole King.
Jessie Mueller as Carole King
in "Beautiful" - The Carole King Musical
Courtesy of Joan Marcus
The cast of "Beautiful" - The Carole King Musical
Courtesy of Joan Marcus