Carole King’s Hits Come to Broadway with Beautiful

Carole King’s Hits Come to Broadway with Beautiful

Jessie Mueller and Jake Epstein in Beautiful (©Joan Marcus)

Last week, I finally got the chance to see a Broadway show I’ve been eagerly anticipating: Beautiful—The Carole King Musical. I’m a fan of atypical musicals that use popular songs in lieu of new material, a la Rock of Ages, or shows with a less-than-theatrical soundtrack, like Once, so a production comprised mostly of Carole King’s folk-rock oeuvre is right up my alley.

The show follows a decade-long chunk of King’s life: from playing her mother’s piano in late 1950’s Brooklyn to meeting to her first husband and songwriting partner Gerry Goffin at Queens College to recording her breakout album Tapestry and subsequently performing at Carnegie Hall in 1971. Though it only skims the surface of King’s biography, the play stresses songs over plot, packing as many as possible into its runtime: just over two hours.

Much of the show focuses on King and Goffin’s dramatic romantic-and-professional relationship, while adding in the humor of their friends Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann, a goofier couple and songwriting duo. Beautiful showcases Weil and Mann’s songs in a game of musical ping-pong between their hits and those of King and Goffin. From mid-Act One to mid-Act Two, we hear King and Goffin’s “Up on the Roof” and Weil and Mann’s “On Broadway”—both popularized by The Drifters—as well as many, many others. 

While I was hoping to see Tony-winning actress Jessie Mueller in the role of King, I was pleasantly surprised at how well understudy Rebecca LaChance portrayed the songwriter. LaChance’s voice isn’t an exact replication of King’s alto, but instead adds a more contemporary feel to her classic hits. The other performers have a bit more pizzazz, with choreographed dances and flashy outfits, but LaChance’s sound speaks for itself.

For more information and tickets, visit beautifulonbroadway.com.

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