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Even if you've followed King's career, there is bound to be at least one song, that makes you say, ‘Oh, I didn’t know she wrote that.’
I’m no expert on who’s who in the music industry, but am familiar with most of the big names and even some of the small ones. I had never heard of Carole King and wondered, why is there a show about her? Beautiful: The Carole King Musical quickly answered my question as I realized she is the brain behind several well-known songs. Trust me, if the name of Carole King isn’t familiar to you, her music is.
Though King won multiple awards as a performing artist, she is best known for the vast collection of hits that she composed. Writers often go unnoticed…Pop Quiz! Who wrote your favorite movie? Chances are you don’t know, because we fast forward through the credits. I accept the fact that the overwhelming majority of you don’t know who wrote this review. (You just checked, caught you!) King preferred being kept in the background and letting only the music she wrote be revealed to the masses.
Beautiful: The Carole King Musical exposes much about King’s life, including the inspirations behind songs such as Pleasant Valley Sunday and It’s Too Late. Much of the action occurs around the piano for brainstorming and testing out new songs. There is are also a few kissing scenes as the ivories act as an aphrodisiac for the lyricists.
It’s no easy task to fill the shoes of a legendary musician, but Sarah Bockel does just that. Despite King’s rather plain Jane style, Bockel still radiates on stage. The beauty of Bockel’s voice is seemingly effortless. Her rendition of (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman is captivating and emotionally moving. Furthermore, Bockel also masterfully portrays the self-doubt that burdens King and the inner torment from her marriage. I was most impressed with her physical transformation that occurred throughout the show from a 16-year old girl to a thirtysomething woman. At intermission I had to check my program to make sure the role wasn’t being split between two actresses. She made a very convincing teenager and before I knew it, she was a grown woman. The make-up, hair, wardrobe etc. departments could make millions from women who want to look younger.
While King and husband, Gerry Goffin have great chemistry together as writing partners, their personal relationship is often strained and on the verge of exploding. As the ultra-cool Goffin, Andrew Brewer excels at showing the conflict within his soul. Goffin wants to do the right thing, but struggles with being contained when there are so many more experiences (women) to explore. Brewer also gradually progresses into adulthood throughout the show.
To call them supporting actors seems like a disservice, as Jacob Heimer as the highly allergic, hypochondriac Barry Mann and Sarah Goeke as the whimsical beauty, Cynthia Weil, turn in star worthy performances. Heimer provides much of the comic relief and has a quality that makes him very endearing. Meanwhile, with lots of charisma, an exquisite voice, natural good looks and a winning hand at strip poker; Goeke is fully loaded. A strong performance is also given by James Clow. He may hold the record for spending the most time on stage during a musical without singing. Clow does sing a few memorable notes towards the end.
Another highlight of Beautiful are the transitions from the songs being written to being performed by the artists who made them famous. More than great singers, The Shirelles also prove themselves to be quick-change artists for their singing of Will You Love Me Tomorrow. The same trick is done by baby-sitter turned pop star Little Eva with The Locomotion. My personal favorite though was the perfect rendition of You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling by The Righteous Brothers.
Even if you've followed King's career, there is bound to be at least one song, that makes you say, ‘Oh, I didn’t know she wrote that.’ One of the beauties of the show, is that its music provides a trip down memory lane with beloved songs from the past. A couple weeks ago, when I interviewed Brewer (Goffin), he spoke about his favorite scene being when Will You Love Me Tomorrow is sung because he hears the recognition from the audience. I anxiously awaited for that moment and he was right. The memories the song stirred up within the audience was clearly audible. It was pretty magical.
Beautiful: The Carole King Musical is aptly titled, because it is a beautiful telling of an accomplished artist. I am now a fan of Carole King. Beautiful: The Carole King Musical continues at the Schuster Center through May 27.
Mike Woody is a life long resident of Dayton, and has a passion for writing, which is good because he doesn't excel at much of anything else, except eating.