BEAUTIFUL – The Carole King Musical tells the inspiring true story of King’s remarkable rise to stardom, from being part of a hit songwriting team with her husband Gerry Goffin, to her relationship with fellow writers and best friends Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann, to becoming one of the most successful solo acts in popular music history. Along the way, she made more than beautiful music, she wrote the soundtrack to a generation.
Last night my boyfriend and I attended opening night of this show at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre in Vancouver. The play follows Carole’s journey from teenaged composer to iconic music legend. Partnered professionally and romantically with high school sweetheart Gerry Goffin, the two wrote some of the top musical hits we still know and love today.
Using some of the most iconic songs, the show takes us through her story using music, humour and stellar performances that kept the audience humming and swaying to every song.
From the opening scene where Sarah Bockel who plays Carole King sits at her piano for “So Far Away” to upbeat hits performed by ensembles that get you grooving like “The Locomotion” I couldn’t help but smile and sing along. I wasn’t alone, the audience grooved along while taking in the magic of the hits including more emotional performances such as “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow”
The very personal story of love and loss is depicted through song and the break down of the relationship of Goffin and King.
Their love hits fast and furious when King gets pregnant and the two decide to wed. Their artistic partnership is as powerful as their romantic one – to start. What becomes clear to the audience is that mental health issues impacted Goffin, played perfectly by Dylan S, Wallach, the teenaged heart throb who grows to become angry and frustrated at many of life’s twists and turns. Of course at that time, mental illness was likely not as recognized as it is today and so his behaviours such as anxiety, anger and unfaithfulness were regarded quite differently than they would be now.
Supported by their colleagues through friendly song writing competitiveness, Cynthia Weil, played by Alison Whitehurst and Barry Mann, played by Jacob Heimer, offer additional comedic relief and musical enjoyment. The most moving performance has these four, along with James Clow as Don Kirshner, singing “You’ve Got a Friend” together when Carole finally makes the decision to leave her unfaithful husband and head to California where she records her own album after years of composing and writing for others.
Bockel along with Suzanne Grodner who plays Genie Klein, Carole’s mother, possess fantastic comedic timing and had great chemistry and mother and daughter. The cast is incredible and the relationship between Weil and Heimer is playful and fun.
The performances from the Ensemble as well as The Drifters and The Shirelles were phenomenal from costumes to choreography. What I most enjoyed was hearing King and Goffin fiddle around with tunes and lyrics that were familiar but not sitting quite right, then the stage would seamlessly transform to bring on the groups to perform the hits fully. On
e of the most entertaining transformations was when babysitter Little Eva, played by Alexis Tidwell, went from pushing a baby buggy to a flipped dress quick change into a stage ready outfit for her performance of “The Locomotion” – Unbelievable!
This show is enjoyable to all generations and encapsulates the memorable hits from the jukebox and beyond through the moving tale of Carole King’s life. I highly recommend you check it out.
Exciting news: the last show in Vancouver will welcome Vancouver actress Kaylee Harwood as Carole King. I almost want to go back for one more viewing to see her in the role and because.. it is just “Some Kind of Wonderful” to enjoy.