I have adored Carol King all of my life. One of my songwriting muses, she is one of those writers who drew me in with catchy melodies and honest lyrics, whose emotions were so powerful even my toddler spirit was called to join in song. That’s the magic of Carol King. And I dare you to play any of her hits in a crowd, and not elicit some form of group sing from several gathered – her stuff is just that infectious.
And infectious certainly describes the experience Tuesday night at the opening of BEAUTIFUL: THE CAROL KING MUSICAL on Broadway Philadelphia at the Academy of Music. The production is a jukebox experience that follows the story of King’s rise to superstardom – from her teenage aspirations to become a songwriter, to her collaborations with former husband Gerry Goffin, to her setting records as one of the most successful solo artists in music history – with her landmark album “Tapestry.”
The play is also a clever synopsis of King’s life behind the music – including her marital joys and pains – and involves several key characters, including friends and fellow hit makers Barry Mann & Cynthia Weil whose music is also prominently featured, and smartly placed, in the production.
Lead actress Amy Mueller is remarkable as King, appearing in almost every non-group (e.g. The Shirelles, The Drifters) related scene while simultaneously balancing dialogue and song – and her vocal range is amazing. All of the cast’s voices were impeccable – and the actors who portrayed The Shirelles (“Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow), The Drifters (“Up on the Roof”), Little Eva (“The Locomotion”), The Righteous Brothers (singing Mann & Weil’s hit “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling”) and Janelle (One Fine Day) really brought the house down with their performances.
Other parts of the production that really wowed were the stage production and costume designs. The audience literally watches the outfits donned by The Shirelles and Little Eva transform in front of our eyes – much like the set that readily changed from living rooms, to office spaces, to studios, to the final Carnegie Hall scene in a matter of seconds.
I highly recommend anyone in the Philly area that enjoys great music, especially fans of Carole King, to see this play before it leaves the Academy – now playing through April 3. Tickets start at just $25 and it certainly will be money well spent.
Until next thought, Thomasena