Beautiful – The Carole King Musical
Book by Douglas McGrath. Words and Music by Gerry Goffin, Carole King, Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil
Dates and Venue November 13 - 18, 2018, 8pm | The Queen Elizabeth Theatre
Reviewer Ed Farolan
I enjoyed the second part of the show more than the first. The first part was too overwhelming. Too many songs, too many different groups singing (Righteous Brothers,The Shirelles, Ray Davies and the Kinks, etc.) Even Neil Sedaka makes a brief appearance. However, the second part when Carole King (Sarah Bockel) goes solo and gains fame--that was superb. And all her iconic songs, particularly “A Natural Woman,” and “You’ve Got A Friend” were sung by her.
The musical opens with the song "Beautiful" sung at Carnegie Hall in 1971, at the peak of her career, and ends with the same song, with Carole in that unique blue dress as she accompanies herself on the piano. Her rise to stardom, from being part of a songwriting team with her husband Gerry Goffin (Dylan S. Wallach), to becoming one of the most successful solo acts in popular music history, is something no woman has ever achieved before.
Douglas McGrath’s book starts off with her as a Brooklyn teenager with a passion for music. She meets her lyric-writing fellow student, Gerry Goffin, and they fall in love. She gets pregnant at 16, they get married, and work in New York’s factory-like Brill Building (interesting set design by Derek McLane).They bond with their friendly rivals, Cynthia Weil (Alison Whitehurst) and Barry Mann (Jacob Heimer). But while King wants to be a simple Jewish mother as she comes across in the first half as a shy, well-adjusted woman, Goffin ends up being a philanderer and they eventually split up. The women in Vancouver´s opening night cheered when she ditches Goffin and says, “The girls deserve something better and so do I!”
The dialogues in this musical were quite witty. There were a number of laughs from the audience, especially from the punch lines of Carole´s mother Genie Klein (Suzanne Grodner). Heimer also got a lot of laughs and a warm applause at curtain call. Wallach played his role well as a philanderer who eventually had a nervous breakdown. Whitehurst reminded me of Ethel Merman as she belted her songs. In fact, Merman did sing her songs ("Broadway Medley" and Happy Days Are Here Again"). I enjoyed Bockel´s renditions of "It´s Too Late", "Natural Woman" and "You´ve Got a Friend". They brought back memories of the 1970s.
This was an entertaining show, around 2.5 hrs long. It started a bit late because it was pouring cats and dogs on opening night, but despite that, it was worth it.
© 2018 Ed Farolan