For years Broadway has turned to the jukebox musical to fill theaters. Most full of stories that include down on their luck artists and groups who manage to defy all odds and become one of the biggest sensations in the industry. Productions like Jersey Boys, Motown and the new show Get On Your Feet, based on the life of Gloria Estefan, fall in to the above category. Lumping Beautiful: The Carole King Musical into that same category would be a disservice.
Currently playing at the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis, Beautiful follows Carole King’s career from a hit songwriter at 16 years old through the release of her second album, the award winning and record breaking, “Tapestry”. Carole never entered the music industry with dreams of becoming a famous singer. She just wanted to write great songs for others to sing. Those songs became some the biggest hits of the 1960’s; “Will You Love Me Tomorrow” The Shirelle’s, “The Loco-Motion” Little Eva, “Take Good Care of My Baby” Bobby Vee, “Up on the Roof” The Drifters, “Pleasant Valley Sunday” The Monkees, “(You Make Me Feel Like a) Natural Women” Aretha Franklin. It wasn’t until after her divorce from writing partner Gerry Goffin did she start singing and recording her own songs. Her album “Tapestry” which explored her feelings before, during and after her divorce was one of the biggest sellers of the 1970’s.
Abby Mueller portrays Carole, the role her sister, Jessie Mueller originated and won a Tony Award for on Broadway in 2014. Having seen both Mueller sisters portray the same role, its uncanny how much they both resemble Carole King not just in their voice and singing but also their looks. Abby brings an energetic, spunk to the stage which captivates you from the very first lyric she sings at the show’s opening. She is perfectly paired with Liam Tobin as Gerry Goffin. The two have an undeniable chemistry. Their working partnership and romance provides the perfect storyline for the show. Ben Fankhauser as Barry Mann and Becky Gulsvig as Cynthia Weil, the rival writing team and eventual best friends of Carole and Gerry provide a great competitive storyline.
The set design team created a beautiful and dynamic automatic set which move and shift between scenes with ease as we are transported from Carole’s childhood home in Brooklyn, to the writing studio at 1650 Broadway in Manhattan to her suburban home in New Jersey and eventually to Carnegie Hall.
This is a show for anyone who loves a great storyline and beautiful songs. You don’t have to be a big fan of Carole King to appreciate her music or her story. You just need to be a fan of great songs and knowing that even if life doesn’t turn out the way your envisioned it, it can still end up being beautiful.
Beautiful: The Carole King Musical is playing at the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis through November 29. For more information on the show or to purchase tickets visit Hennepin Theatre Trust’s website.