Beautiful is truly the perfect word to describe the new jukebox musical about the colossal sensation, Carole King. Beautiful is a show about turning lemons into lemonade. It’s about transitions, it’s about relationships, and it’s about the ways we can support one another to bring out the best traits in our fellow humans. Almost everyone knows Carole King or at least has heard one of her groovy tunes, but not everyone had the fortune to live through her legacy. For those who are relatively unfamiliar with the kind of woman Carole King truly was (myself included) this musical is the perfect little glimpse at the ever “beautiful” Carole King.
Carole King (Abby Mueller) played Carole King as a simple woman. Her clothes weren’t overly flashy like other characters and she seemed really down to earth. Muller was challenged with the task of playing a vast range of ages from teenager to a middle aged adult. The difference in tone between the various sections in her life is very clear to see. During her teen years Mueller’s energy is electric and a prime example of the youthful optimism many teens have. Over the course of the show, the energy becomes more reserved as she becomes more grounded in her character. This journey is a powerful thing to watch.
Cynthia Weil (Becky Gulsvig) and Barry Mann (Ben Fankhauser) were hysterical! Their relationship on stage was like shining a light through a prism. They captured all aspects of the emotional rainbow in their performance, but the best of all was the comedy. Gulsvig’s sassy attitude paired with Fankhauser’s straightforward outlook provided for some seam bursting laughter.
On top of the marvelous performances, the set was remarkable as well. Most of the scenery (pianos, couches, doors, etc.) were on tracks that seamlessly shifted them around the stage. The pieces appeared to be gliding on ice, and thus the whole show was very fluid. The entire set was made of squares. The proscenium was divided into squares, the “curtain” was a panel divided into squares, the platforms above the stage were squares. Even the backdrop had guitars suspended on pipes, but the pipes formed squares! This is a sort of metaphor for Carole King’s life. All her life she was shown what she was supposed to be doing, but she kept defying expectations by stepping “outside the box”.
Despite the show’s next to flawless execution, there were times when the sound could have been mixed so that the band didn’t overpower the vocals. Another problem I had with the show was not execution, but the style. There are many musicals that go from the start to finish of a musical career and incorporate many of that group's hits throughout the show. This method of storytelling has become a little worn out. That being said the show is still very well performed and extremely interesting to watch. If one were to go and see it, they would have a pleasant experience.