NME After Print: Beautiful: The Carole King Musical at Popejoy Hall


Carnegie Hall - Sarah Bockel (Carole King), Photo by Joan Marcus

Bobby Vee. The Drifters. The Monkees. Aretha Franklin.

One woman brought all these artists together. Carole King has been a songwriting machine since the late 1950s at the age of 16 and her hits have become memorable standards. So it should have been no surprise when Broadway came a-calling and created the musical “Beautiful,” telling the story of how Carol Joan Kline became the legendary Carole King. I got to experience the touring company tonight at Popejoy Hall. The stage - spotlighting a single piano - how the music began. The musical opens with Carole, played by Kaylee Harwood, playing “So Far Away” beginning the story of how it all began. Harwood’s voice, simple and elegant, as the singer/songwriter herself. Also full of life as she guides the audience through her history.

We meet her mother, played by Suzanne Grodner, the somewhat bitter woman of divorce, but a supportive mother of Carole’s career. Determined to make a living as a songwriter and not a teacher as her mother would like, Carole finds success after selling a song to Don Kirshner, played by James Clow, of Dimension Records. Carole’s good fortune continued when she meets Gerry Goffin, played by Dylan S. Wallach. Goffin is a playwright and becomes an influential force in Carole’s life, becoming a writing partner and sooner than expected, a husband, when she discovers that she’s pregnant. The musical continues to explore King’s relationships in work and love, including her friendships with Cynthia Weil (Alison Whitehurst) and Barry Mann (Jacob Heimer), and how she continued to concur her dreams, even in the hardest of struggles - finding a certain peace within her own words.

Harwood’s portrayal of King was, well, beautiful. She did well presenting a passionate, but often times, vulnerable woman, trying to find her place in the music scene and life as a woman balancing life as a mother, a wife, and an artist. Wallach as Goffin gave me moments of anger and compassion. His need to still feel young and accessible at the expense of Carole drew so many emotions throughout the performance. Whitehurst was also a stand out as Cynthia. Her comedic time was on point. Her quick wit worked well with Heimer’s. They were a perfect match. Grodner and Clow also had strong performances that heightened the overall cast.

The music of Carole King changed the face of music. “Tapestry” was the soundtrack for many who were looking for understanding during difficult times in life. “Beautiful” is a wonderful tribute to an amazing woman who showed us a glimpse into her life through her music and words. This is definitely a must see!

Beautiful is running at Popejoy Hall from until June 16th. Tickets are available at http://popejoypresents.com/2018-2019-season/beautiful

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