The inspiration for this editorial came after seeing Beautiful:The Carole King Musical on tour on January 17, 2019. I have been a fan of the musical from about the time the Broadway production started five years ago. What secured my love of the show was the cast recording of songs my parents belted out for years. Having seen the production live, this is one of the best jukebox musicals, and here is why.
Beautiful: The Carole King Musical features a book (script) by Douglas McGrath telling the early life of Carole King. The musical has songs by Carole King and collaborations with Gerry Goffin. Barry Mann, Cynthia Weil, and Phil Spector contribute songs as well.. The production started tryouts at the Curran Theatre in California in October 2013. Broadway was the next stop. at the Stephen Sondheim Theatre in January 2014, and is wowing audiences nightly. The West End production opened in February 2015 and the US Tour launched that same year.
The biographical nature of the plot connects the story and the music. It relates some of Carole King’s early life which makes it endearing to the audience, wanting to know where the story will go next. The characters in the musical are not perfect; they are flawed and you see their flaws on stage which makes them seem more human and very relatable. Whether you are a member of the music business or not, this is a tale about family and lifelong connections as it chronicles Carole King’s rise in the music world. Detail plays an important role in the plot, and this musical discusses both the big and the small events about the lives of the people in that era.
The songs in Beautiful: The Carole King Musical are perfect for the mood and vibe of the show and they are classic. This is not an operetta because there is dialogue, but the music plays as big a role in this show as the script. It also takes the audience back to their own youth. The selections in this musical do not feel out of place—as Carole and the rest of the characters grow and mature, the music grows along with them. Much research and thought went into the songs featured.
As it is mostly story based, the set for this show is simple but clever, with no need for a big flashy, elaborate design. The set suits this production well since it complements the storyline and allows you to enjoy the characters. For example, when the musical action is in the studio booths, each singer is standing in a separate area which helps create the illusion that the performers are in the middle of a recording session. The offices in the musical also help create the mood with the minimal design of pianos and desks. I also enjoyed the geometric pattern on the backdrop of the set because it gives you that old time feeling. Beautiful: The Carole King Musical is a production with a well-designed set that packs a lot of punch and still enhances the story.
I hope this discussion has introduced you to Beautiful: The Carole King Musical and that you are inclined to look up the cast recording, or maybe see the show if the tour comes near your city. If you already know the songs, I hope these thoughts brought back memories of when you saw the musical or listened to the cast recording.
Have you seen Beautiful: The Carole King Musical on the tour or another production? Let us know in the comments or on social media.
(Carole King and Chilina Kennedy in Beautiful: The Carole King Musical on Broadway. Photo by Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images.)