A Beautiful Musical – er I Mean a Review of Beautiful the Musical

 

Thanks to my membership in the Tampa Bay Bloggers and their partnership with the Straz Center, I received two complimentary tickets for the purposes of review to "Beautiful - The Carole King Musical". This has not impacted my review and all opinions below are my own.
Carnegie Hall. Sarah Bockel (“Carole King”)
Carnegie Hall. Sarah Bockel (“Carole King”)

I was thrilled when the opportunity to watch Beautiful: The Carole King Musical was offered to me. Although I admit, I wasn’t completely familiar with the Carole King story, I recognized many of the songs that were listed in the production’s descriptions. I had also heard so many wonderful things about the show, and I’m a sucker for good music and acting performed live on a stage. Something about knowing  that they can’t yell “CUT!” and/or “take it from the top,” just gives me an excitement like no other form of entertainment ever has. Can you relate?

Knowing that my mom would want to hear those songs of yesteryear once more, performed live, I invited her to be my date, and I’m so glad I did. One of my favorite moments in the middle of the show was when she lit up at the song Loco Motion. She leaned over and told me that her and a friend had choreographed a dance to that song while they were growing up. It was so fun watching her re-live happy times from childhood. Want to know how I felt about the show overall? Keep reading…

Beautiful – The Carole King Musical – What Straz Said About it (spoilers ahead)

Long before she was Carole King, chart-topping music legend, she was Carol Klein, Brooklyn girl with passion and chutzpah. She fought her way into the record business as a teenager and, by the time she reached her twenties, had the husband of her dreams and a flourishing career writing hits for the biggest acts in rock ‘n’ roll. But it wasn’t until her personal life began to crack that she finally managed to find her true voice.

BEAUTIFUL – The Carole King Musical tells the inspiring true story of King’s remarkable rise to stardom, from being part of a hit songwriting team with her husband Gerry Goffin, to her relationship with fellow writers and best friends Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann, to becoming one of the most successful solo acts in popular music history. Along the way, she made more than beautiful music, she wrote the soundtrack to a generation.

Featuring a stunning array of beloved songs written by Gerry Goffin/Carole King and Barry Mann/Cynthia Weil, including “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, BEAUTIFUL has a book by Tony Award® nominee and Academy Award®-nominated writer Douglas McGrath, direction by Marc Bruni, choreography by Josh Prince and took home two 2014 Tony Awards® and the 2015 Grammy® for Best Musical Theater Album. BEAUTIFUL is currently playing to sold out crowds at the Stephen Sondheim Theatre on Broadway.

Beautiful – The Carole King Musical – My Review

When the show opened, I was met with a vibrant red head sitting at a piano confessing she never planned to be a singer. Then, the audience is brought back in time to how she ended up at that piano singing for a crowd. We learn about her desire to be a songwriter, and the way she met her first husband and long time writing partner Gerry Goffin. This marriage and the songs they would go on to create are the ultimate focus of the production.

Fast forward a little bit and Carole and Gerry have a baby, are married, are finally working as full time song writers, but you can see throughout all of it that Gerry has itchy feet. I was getting angry as this was all taking place because I knew what was coming. There was trouble in paradise, and I just wanted to focus on the happiness that was the music.

I also got antsy as I watched the characters of Barry Man and Cynthia Weil in their competitive nature with Gerry and Carole. Two teams of songwriters and musicians constantly trying to out-do each other on the Billboard music charts. I can’t even imagine how stressful that would be. But the couples were friends nonetheless, and I loved them and was rooting for everyone to succeed.

As I watched though, I couldn’t help but reflect on how good songwriters have to be going through all the feels so that they can put amazing lyrics and music on the page, and ultimately on the record.  I confess, it was even exciting to watch the super high-highs, and the troubling lows of excited love, wild success, depressing defeats, and so on…

Four Friends - Beautiful the Carole King Musical
Four Friends. (l to r) James Clow (“Don Kirshner”), Andrew Brewer (“Gerry Goffin”), Sarah Bockel (“Carole King”), Jacob Heimer (“Barry Mann”) and Sarah Goeke (“Cynthia Weil”).

By intermission I knew that Carol and Gerry would be divorcing, but I still didn’t like that this was confirmed by all the spoiler laden conversations going on in the line for the ladies restroom. Am I the only one who didn’t know the end of this show? Haha! It seemed like everyone that was there had either watched it before or at least knew the story. (side note: to me a testament to how good a musical is, is how many repeat watchers are in attendance. I encountered people who were seeing it for the second, third, and fourth time.)

I was amused in that same restroom line when a lady that was older than me, asked if someone as young as I am could possibly even be enjoying the show so far. I replied, absolutely! And, we shared a chuckle when I said I was diggin’ it, and that the songs were neato, and really swell.

Ensemble from Beautiful - The Carole King Musical
Ensemble from Beautiful: The Carole King Musical

One of my favorite things about the musical over all, was watching how these songs that began as “simple” words and notes on a page seemed to magically transform into hits thanks to the musical acts that performed them. How exciting it must have been for these writers to witness their work coming to life in that way for all to enjoy and be entertained by.

I also particularly loved the costumes, and how they along with the sets and props made you really feel like you were stepping back in time to the era in which all of those amazing songs were created.

My favorite part is that after all of the crap with Gerry,  we’re presented at the end with Carole King coming out on top. She is the amazing powerhouse that drives this entire show. She pulls you in, giving you a raw look into the good, the bad and the ugly of the music industry.

Grant it, we didn’t see the knock-down, drag-out ugly one might expect if this had been about the music business today. But, that’s what makes the show that much nicer to watch. Even though there’s heartache in the production, it truly made me yearn for a feeling of what may have been a simpler time.

Bottom line – I say go watch this show!

I would  recommend this musical to anyone who loves those songs from yesteryear. I would also recommend it to enthusiasts of the entertainment industry. I would recommend it to people who crave a simpler time. To put it simply, I would recommend it to anyone who wants to witness an overall feel good story come to life on stage. All in, this production was in fact, a beautiful musical. 

Beautiful – The Carole King Musical is playing at The Straz Center now through April 1, 2018. To see all the shows playing at the Straz, click HERE!

And, Beautiful – The Carole King Musical contains some adult language, and mature situations.

 

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