King wrote the soundtrack for Baby Boomers’ lives
BOSTON – Attention, Baby Boomers: There’s another musical in town that’s right in your wheelhouse.
The sound track of “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical” includes many of the greatest hits of the 1950’s 1960’s and 1970’s, smartly staged and sung, along with the compelling backstory of one of the greatest composers and performers in pop/rock history.
The show was nominated for seven 2014 Tony Awards and won two – for Jessie Mueller in the lead role and another for sound design – and while it doesn’t have the cache of the greatest “jukebox musical” of all time – that would be “Jersey Boys” – it is still hugely entertaining.
The former Carole Klein came out of Brooklyn not as a stunning beauty, saying about her looks — “I have the right amount of body. It’s not organized properly” – but as a stunning talent.
‘Beautiful” covers the period of her life after she sold her first song as a teen attending Queens College to her triumphant Carnegie Hall concert after the release of her groundbreaking “Tapestry.”
Abby Mueller steps into the role of King that won her sister a Tony and while her voice isn’t quite the instrument that her sister Jesse’s is, it does quite nicely, thank you, in replicating the distinctive timbre of King’s voice, and she holds up her end of the acting bargain as well.
The book of “Beautiful” by Tony® and Academy® Award-nominee Douglas McGrath isn’t quite as compelling as “Jersey Boys” either, since King was never threatened by the mob or owed millions to the IRS.
Still, she experienced plenty of heartbreak and frustration before embarking on a brilliant solo career with “Tapestry,” which has sold more than 25 million copies worldwide.
How many women can have a hit song written about them (Neil Sedaka’s “Oh Carol”) by a high school boyfriend and then go on to co-write a No. 1 hit (“Will You Love Me Tomorrow), all by the age of 17?
King also became a mother for the first time at 17, forced to juggle her career with being a wife and mother, along the way gradually winning over her skeptical mother Genie (Suzanne Grodner), still mourning her divorce.
More than 400 0f King’s songs have been recorded by more than 1,000 artists, and both she and her late husband and lyricist Gerry Goffin (Liam Tobin) were inducted into both the Songwriters Hall of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Music impresario Don Kirshner (Curt Bouril) gathered a stable of writers and musicians to his Manhattan music emporium to grind out the soundtrack for a generation starting in the late 1950s and then in the decades to follow.
Lyricist Goffin (Liam Tobin) and composer wife King were partners in life and music, just like their “next door neighbors,” Barry Mann (Ben Fankhauser) and Cynthia Weil (Becky Gulsvig), who became music icons in their own right, and friendly competitors.
Where “Beautiful” really gets it right is in the stylish staging of many of those hits, especially “Will You Love Me Tomorrow,” written by Goffin and King for The Shirelles (Ashley Blanchet, Britney Coleman, Rebecca E. Covington, Salisha Thomas) and “On Broadway” (Mann-Weil) and “Up on the Roof” (Goffin-King) performed by The Drifters (John A. Dawson, Paris Nix, Noah J. Rickettes, Dashaun Young), accompanied by some dazzling choreography by Josh Prince.
Director Marc Bruni knows we’ve come to hear the music and he delivers and then some, with 27 musical numbers including beloved songs written by Goffin/King and Mann/Weil such as “I Feel The Earth Move,” “One Fine Day,” “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman,” “You’ve Got A Friend” and the title song.
Although King’s personal life has continued to have some bumps and bruises, including four marriages, and the death of ex-husband Goffin last year, her legacy as a songwriter and performer was cemented long ago, and it is “Beautiful” to behold.
The national touring production of “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical.” Music and lyrics by Carole King and Gerry Goffin and Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil. Book by Douglas McGrath. .Directed by Marc Bruni. Choreography by Josh Prince Other credits: Derek McLane (Set Design), Alejo Vietti (Costume Design), Peter Kaczorowski (Lighting Design), Brian Ronan (Sound Design), Charles G. LaPointe (Wig and Hair Design), Steve Sidwell (Orchestrations and Music Arrangements), Jason Howland (Music Supervision) and John Miller (Music Coordination). At the Opera House, Washington Street, Boston, through Nov. 15. Broadway inBoston.com.