By Jennifer and Craig Mustoe
One of the first albums I ever owned was Tapestry, by Carole King. I sang each of her songs over and over, loud and strong. Young as I was, the message of each song resonated with me. Now I realize that’s one of the reasons why this album won many awards and sold over 25 million(!) copies. It clearly resonated with a lot of us. And it is a layered, lovely collection of musical stories.
Now, I need to admit something right here about musicals. I love being in them sometimes more than I love going to see them. You see, the reason for this is in musicals, so much of the story line is sung. You want to tell someone you love them? Sing it. You want to tell someone you hate them? Sing it. Sometimes I just want to scream: Just say it! In Beautiful, the plot points aren’t told in song. The songs, Carole King’s songs, are the story.
Beautiful tells Carole King’s (played by the stupendously talented Julia Knitel) success story, from her many years as a songwriter in New York to her triumph in Los Angeles. My husband, Craig, a rock history enthusiast (nerd) already knew much of King’s story, but it was new to me and it is delightful.
Sixteen-year-old Carole Klein/King sold her first song to Don Kirshner (Curt Bouril) of Aldon Records. She also met the man who would soon be her husband, Gerry Goffin (Liam Tobin.) Together, she and Goffin produced many hits together for popular singers of the time, including Bobby Vee, The Chiffons, and the Monkees. One of the major plot points in Beautiful is the friendly competition King and Goffin have with dear friends and rivals Cynthia Weil (Erika Olsen) and husband Barry Mann (Ben Frankhauser) who wrote such hits as: “On Broadway” and “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin”. Beautiful‘s first act shows these two couples’ rise to fame and the sacrifices they need to make to make it. What I loved about this was of course the factual part of this–I had no idea Carole King was anything but a recording star! But the warmth and bounteous humor of this made it a delight to watch. Carole’s mother, Genie Klein (Suzanne Grodner) is comic relief and very funny.
The show has few dance numbers compared to other musicals, which makes sense, as this is a story about a woman who didn’t dance. Most of the dancing was done by the 60s groups The Drifters, The Sharells and The Righteous Brothers. Choreography by Josh Prince was so spot on, I felt like I was watching the real performers all over again. Little vignettes by these performers built the musical layers wonderfully. Music director Susan Draus created a musical masterpiece. And the voices of each performer were perfect. You’d expect nothing less from a Broadway Across America show. Director Marc Bruni has created a lovely, funny, perfect show. The costumes, by Alejo Vietti, are marvelous–especially the sparkly, snappy, chic vintage costumes worn by the 60s bands and singers.
My husband and I found the second act slightly rushed and something of a letdown. King and Goffin divorce and both Knitel and Tobin handle this with aching precision. But then, suddenly, Carole is in Los Angeles and is a big star and the end. So much music and vibrancy and fun and heartache happened in Act One that it felt rushed in Act Two. I researched Carole King for this review and it turns out that a lot happened that wasn’t in the show, and really, you can’t put every experience in a Broadway show or it would be eight hours long. But she did struggle somewhat in California, she did marry again, and I would have liked to see more of her story. And maybe that’s why Beautiful is so wonderful. Maybe after seeing it, like me, people rush to Wikipedia to find out more about Carole King the songwriter, the performer, the wife, the mother, the star.
Because it is the habit of reviewers at Front Row Reviewers Utah to recommend shows to certain audiences, I would say this is a show for tweens and up, especially those who love oldies. The Eccles Theater is a huge, lovely space, so getting good seats is important if you want to see the actors’ expressions.
Finally, do not miss this show. It is Broadway quality and really shouldn’t be missed. It is gorgeous, fun, and inspiring.
Beautiful, The Carole King Musical
Broadway at the Eccles
Eccles Theater Box Office
131 S. Main St.
Salt Lake City, UT 84101
11.15-17.16 7:30 PM, 11.18.16 8:00 PM, 11.19.16 2:00 and 8:00 PM, 11.20.16 1:00 PM and 6:30 PM.