BEAUTIFUL: THE CAROLE KING MUSICAL Spotlights The Most Influential Woman In Modern Music

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Beautiful: The Carole King Musical runs 3/12/19 to 3/17/19 at The Fabulous Fox Theatre.

Carole Klein was born in Brooklyn, New York, just a couple of months after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. She grew up playing the piano with her parents, who could tell at an early age that she was gifted with perfect pitch. By the time she reached high school, Carole changed her name to King and began writing songs with a friend from the neighborhood, a kid by the name of Paul Simon. You might have heard of him--he did all right. Carole was only sixteen when she entered Queens College. She was going to be a teacher, but yearned to make songs that would make listeners feel the amazement and joy that she felt listening to the hits of the era over the family radio. She soon broke into the music business in 1958 with “The Right Girl.”  Carole King could write the music, but her lyrics needed work. Enter a young man named Gerry Goffin, a drama major who had a knack for words. Their lives forever intertwined, they duo produced an amazing quantity of hit pop songs, two children, and an abundance of drama and humor for writer Douglas McGrath to coalesce into the book for Beautiful: The Carole King Musical.

Beautiful is an apropos title. It was a beautiful time in the early days of pop music, and Carol and Gerry crafted beautiful songs. In the North American Tour, currently playing the Fabulous Fox Theatre in St. Louis through St. Patrick’s Day (March 17th for those of us who aren’t Irish), Carole King’s early career and productive if tumultuous relationship ship with Gerry Goffin is beautifully (OK, I'll stop) performed by Sarah Bockel. She plays Carole with self-deprecating wit, never a diva but fully aware that she’s good at her chosen profession. As her relationship with Goffin starts to crumble, Bockel projects the hurt and vulnerability you’d expect, but also her personal courage. Ultimately, King was triumphant with the record-setting success of 1971’s Tapestry, which is the closing point for the show, where Bockel really cuts loose. Playing Goffin is Dylan S. Wallach as the show’s nominal antagonist. Some might have harsher terms for Goffin, others might take into consideration his eventual diagnosis of manic depression. Wallach does a good job of balancing Goffin’s lyrical genius with his personal demons.

It’s truly amazing that the songwriting tandem of King and Goffin would call their closest rivals their best friends. Alison Whitehurst plays Cynthia Weil and Jacob Heimer plays Barry Mann, the tandem produced a sizeable number of hits themselves, working n the same building as King and Goffin for big shot producer Don Kirshner, played by James Clow. Whitehurst and Heimer have wonderful chemistry with each other. Their relationship is much slower to develop and still ascending when their friends’ relationship is in decline. They help provide a little competitive edge and a release valve for tension when the show starts to get a little heavy. Clow and Suzanne Grodner as Genie Klein, Carole’s mother, provide spot-on comic relief or sage wisdom as needed.

 The ensemble wears lots of metaphorical hats and actual costumes in this production, and at times they dazzle the audience with a little quick-change stage magic. Ben Biggers, Darius Delk, John Michael Dias, Leandra Ellis-Gaston, Kaylee Harwood, Willie Hill, Alia Hodge, James Michael Lambert, Harper Miles, Dimitri Joseph Moïse, Aashley Morgan (yes, I typed her name correctly!), Deon Releford-Lee, Nathan Andrew Riley, Paul Scanlan, DeAnne Stewart, Danielle J. Summons, Alexis Tidwell and Eilse Vannerson play session musicians, The Shirelles, The Drifters, The Righteous Brothers, Little Eva, and many others. Director Mark Bruni sets his cast on generally simple but--pardon the word again—beautiful sets, with pianos, tables, furniture and decorations gliding away smoothly at scene transitions.

Personally, I can’t imagine anyone who wouldn’t enjoy this show. If you’re already a fan of Carole King, this production may give you a little more insight into how events in her life shaped her craft. If you don’t really know much about her other than a couple of songs from her Tapestry masterpiece, much like myself when I saw the show during its first tour a few years ago, you are going to be delighted, uplifted, and in awe of both pairs of songwriters featured in this musical. It seems like two out of every three hits before the British Invasion era of rock & roll had either King/Goffin or Weil/Mann on the label. Carole King is truly the most influential woman in modern music.

Don’t hesitate! Visit www.fabulousfox.com for more information and ticket availability. Part pop-rock revue and part biography of an incredible talent who is still somehow flying under a lot of folks’ radar, Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, should not be missed!

Grade: 
5.0 / 5.0