Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

January 18, 2017

Beautiful-The Carole King Musical

The Bushnell, Hartford, CT
through January 22, 2017
by R.E. Smith

One need not fear that “Beautiful-The Carole King Musical” is simply another “jukebox review” of well known songs loosely strung together with a “theme.” Rather, it is the fascinating story of songwriter/singer Carole King’s life and career (actually, a fairly straightforward tale of love and friendship) staged so well, and so spectacularly, that it practically knocks the audience’s socks off.

Julia Knitel
Julia Knitel as King is absolutely outstanding. Her energy, delivery, and genuineness of spirit fills the stage even when 16-year-old King is just starting to find her voice. The audience is instantly hers, aided by a spot-on dialect, remarkable piano skills, and powerhouse singing voice. Playing a living icon does not diminish her ability to deliver a genuine, multi-faceted character.

Baby boomers that grew up listening to King’s 1971 Grammy winning “Tapestry” album will undoubtedly be moved with nostalgia. But the sheer volume of popular music that she and her husband, Gerry Goffin (Liam Tobin), created together will floor those not so familiar with the artist. Perhaps it would be best not to read the list of songs so that the revelation of the hits is even more amazing. Rather than just recreating the songs verbatim, the book gives us insight in to how they were developed and shaped.

Douglas McGrath’s script crackles with heartfelt New York energy and speed, with lines both humorous and insightful. The story is generous in crediting another songwriting team, Cynthia Weil and Berry Mann as playing an important role in King’s life and career. As both friends and friendly rivals, Erika Olson and Ben Frankhauser quickly become audience favorites and a vital compliment to King and Goffin. The addition of their work in the famous Brill Building brings still more hits to the stellar line-up. Indeed, the show is generous on every level, with all members of the ensemble given a chance to shine.

The choreography of Josh Prince embraces and enhances the styles of the 60’s, delivering an unbridled exuberance to the proceedings and smile to the face. Coupled with the gorgeous costume design and simple, but dazzling, scenery, the show is worth seeing for the visual touches alone.

All the elements in “Beautiful,” from performances, to songs, to the dancing are executed flawlessly, making it deserving of all the “gorgeous”, “dazzling”, “lovely”, “magnificent” synonyms that one can list.