Beautiful: The Carol King Musical is a Must-See at The Pantages!
While it is no secret how much I admire many of the female singer/songwriters that have filled concert halls through the years (Tori Amos, Joni Mitchell, PJ Harvey….the list of talents are endless), one of them some may be surprised to know I have always enjoyed is Carol King.
Probably a good 10 or more years ago, I found myself with an old cassette of her 1971 masterpiece, Tapestry. During the era of Joni’s Blue, Janis Joplin’s Pearl or even Buffy Saint Marie’s She Used to Wanna be a Ballerina (which, oddly enough, features a cover of Smack Water Jack, co-written by King), along came Carol King. Then, better known as half of the powerhouse writing duo along with her Husband, Gerry Goffin.
Since 1960, these “kids” (Carol just 17 and Goffin 20 when they met) were churning out the hits for such notable names as The Drifters (Up on the Roof) and The Shirelles (Will You Still Love me Tomorrow?).
Carol King’s incredible journey from teen writing sensation, teenage Mom and Wife, to writing songs for herself when her marriage to Goffin crumbled, is currently being told in the remarkable Tony Award winning musical, Beautiful: The Carol King Musical. I am so lucky that I got to witness this spectacle at The Pantages Hollywood with one of my best blogging buddies, Melissa from Miz Meliz (and on her birthday eve, no less!).
Beautiful is the authorized story of Carol, her then-husband, Gerry Goffin, and their best friends/friendly rivals, Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann. While The Mann’s were also successful songwriters (You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling, He’s so Shy), there really was no way to compete with The Goffin’s. While King was a lyricist, I had no idea that some of their most beloved songs, like Will You Still Love me Tomorrow and (You Make me Feel..) Like a Natural Woman, were her husband’s words to her music. It brought to mind one of my favorite authors, Wally Lamb, who so hauntingly brought to life Dolores Price in his highly acclaimed book, She’s Come Undone.
While all the songs are in Beautiful, it’s the story that really inspired me. Carol King has always struck me as such a happy, humble, kind woman, yet, behind the fun and games of ruling the radio in the 60’s, she was dealing with a husband with a drifting eye and 2 young daughters by the time she was only 28 (She had their first, Louise, at just 17).
Abby Mueller, who plays our leading woman in the touring company, is certainly one for her peers to look up to. Mueller BECOMES King effortlessly. From the shy, ambitious girl we meet in Act 1, to a woman picking up the pieces of her divorce and getting the courage to move to LA and tell her own story in Act 2, Mueller not only sounds so much like Carol with that raspy, hearty voice, but also delivers the heart and soul to her songs.
I also appreciated Mueller’s ability to be so brilliant, yet, not take all the spotlight. Her co-stars, Liam Tobin (Gerry), Becky Gulsvig (Cynthia) and Ben Frankhauser (Barry) shine on stage along with the rest of the cast, and are equally as marvelous as Mueller.
Some fun facts: Abby’s sister, Jessie, originated the role on Broadway and earned her first Tony Award for her portrayal, and, as Carol is changing her life towards the end of the night, she tells The Mann’s she is moving to California to record her first album….to “somewhere called Laurel Canyon” and, mentions that her girls want a cat. This made me giggle as I love the cover of Tapestry, with Carol’s 2 cats sitting with her 😉
Beautiful: The Carol King Musical, is currently on its North American tour (as well as on Broadway!) and at The Pantages Theatre in Hollywood through this Sunday, July 17th. I cannot recommend this musical enough, one everyone can certainly enjoy! Bravo, cast! xo