Put another coin in: BEAUTIFUL is a jukebox musical that spans decades and elicits joy. The Carole King Musical is not just an evening of familiar tunes, but a look into the world of one our most prolific living popular songwriters. Born Carol Joan Klein in 1942 in Manhattan, Carole King has written or co-written 118 pop hits on the Billboard Hot 100 between 1955 and 1999*.
BEAUTIFUL – The Carole King Musical is playing now through June 17, 2018 on the Connor Palace Theatre stage at Cleveland’s Playhouse Square. The show features a seemingly endless picnic of popular 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.”
Played by an effervescent Sarah Bockel, a spunky 16-year-old Carole King precociously takes on New York music exec Don Kirshner (played by James Clow) by walking into his office without an appointment and charming the heck out of him with her spirit and a tune called “It Might as Well Rain Until September.” The song is recorded by Bobby Vee, Carole is hired as a songwriter, and she goes on to a long career – writing for other people.
The playfulness of the show is infectious, as the budding love between Carole and her writing partner Gerry Goffin (played by Andrew Brewer) feels adorably right. There’s also a sporting rivalry between them and the writing team of Cynthia Weil (played by Sarah Goeke) and Barry Mann (played by Jacob Heimer) that is hilarious to watch.
As relationships change over time, the songs evolve, as well. The gamut runs from “Who Put the Bomp” and “Bee-Bop-A-Lula” to “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling” and “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow.”
“Girls don’t write music, they teach it,” her mother tells her when she’s young. Carole’s story has highs and lows in both her professional and personal life, but her music always gets her through. So this girl certainly ends up teaching what it takes to become a strong, successful woman!
Through stories of heartbreak, friendship, parenthood, work and more, the cast is energetic throughout the peppy performance. Bocknel gives the character of Carole a smile that lights up a room – a little devious, a little innocent, a lot of talent. Her vocals are impressive, and her energy is contagious.
Brewer gives the character of Gerry a tall, dark and likeable quality. His voice is nice, and he’s charismatic… which is what makes the character’s downfall so epic. The cheating spouse is heartbreaking to watch, and the audience is on Carole’s side. Well played, Brewer.
Goeke is great as Cynthia, who’s a bit snarky and a little more “modern” than the others. She fills the “good friend” role wonderfully and throws in a bit of sass in the process. Heimer is a multi-layered Barry, who is a hypochondriac. The character is a loveable softy and a talented artist. As a pair, these two fit together very well.
The set (by Derek McLane) is a series of drops and moving back pieces, with different props (desks, chairs, etc.) and instruments moving in and out through the show. If you can get past the fake onstage piano playing, the pieces are good. But the lighting (by Peter Kaczorowski) is what really brings this world to life. And of course the period costumes (by Alejo Vietti) are fabulous – the concert and vignette ensembles are a favorite!
At intermission and after the show, it can be heard throughout the crowd, “Oh! I didn’t know that was a Carole King song” about any number of the pieces. So many songs in the world belong to Carole, but not all of them feature her voice. It’s amazing that Clevelanders leave the theater giving their own voices to her music, as well! This feel-good musical leaves everyone humming or outwardly singing, and that is definitely BEAUTIFUL.
TICKETS to BEAUTIFUL – The Carole King Musical are $10.00 – $100.00 and can be purchased online at www.playhousesquare.org, or by calling 216-241-6000. Run time is approximately 2 hours and 30 minutes.
*Carole King: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carole_King