Regional Reviews: Florida - Southern
Beautiful: The Carole King Musical
This is how a biographical musical should be done: full-length songs, an excellent book by Douglas McGrath, glorious voices from every cast member, and thrilling technical aspects.
Carole King, nee Klein, was born in Brooklyn to a divorced mom and wanted desperately to be a songwriter. But, there was a little problem: she was "a girl."
At 16 she hit 1650 Broadway, met Gerry Goffin, got pregnant, married, mothered two daughters, had a string of smash hits, and was divorced by 28. Along the road she met and became best friends with Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann, fellow songwriters who became King's closest friends and competitors.
Essentially, that's the true story and the show avoids any possible pitfall clichés and moves at lightning speed.
I cannot say enough about the cast. Starring as King is Abby Mueller. Dressed in the appropriate dowdy costumes by Alejo Vietti, she is the guide for our tour through her life. Vocally her own person, she manages to convey the pathos and dignity of King through her huge voice and realistic acting. The Brooklyn accent is just enough, and her timing impeccable and heartwarming. As Gerry, Liam Tobin has, perhaps, the most difficult role, emotionally, and combined with a terrific voice he manages to make us warm to a man who, let's say, caused Carole to grow up more quickly than most.
Special mention goes to Becky Gulsvig as Cynthia Weil. From her opening dialogue you know she is a force to be reckoned with. A ringer physically and vocally for Christine Ebersole, she is a classy scene-stealer.
It's fascinating to see a musical that represents what one has lived through. My companion said as we left the theatre, "I knew every lyric." As did I. From the opening "So Far Away" to the closing title number, with Carole playing at Carnegie Hall, the music harkens back to more innocent times. Were we all that young once and did we realize the magnitude of King's work?
Not having read the Playbill beforehand, I was amazed to see at the curtain calls that there is only a cast of 18. Seriously, I thought there were at least 40. Josh Prince has done creative and impeccable work choreographing what is a plethora of singer/dancers. "Bravi" to all of the ensemble who go from The Shirelles, to The Drifters, to Paul Anka, Little Eva, The Righteous Brothers, et al.
Been to any good parties lately? If not, and even if you have, you have until May 22nd to see, and enjoy, the biggest party of them all.
Beautiful: The Carole King Musical is at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts through May 22nd, 2016. The theatre is located at 201 SW 5 Avenue in Ft. Lauderdale Fl. For tickets, call 954-462-0222 or visit www.browardcenter.org. For more information on the tour, visit beautifulonbroadway.com/tour.