beautiful carole king musical this one

Just Beautiful – The Carole King Musical – A Broadway Review

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My daughter wanted to see Beautiful (her youth choir had performed some of the songs from the show in their annual Broadway concert last year), and my mother was kind enough to buy her tickets for her birthday, so off we went. It’s a jukebox musical, and if you’re a baby boomer, or if you are the child of a baby boomer, or if you listen to oldies radio, you’ll likely know most of the songs. Much like Jersey Boys, it’s the story behind the music, and much like Jersey Boys, it will keep you, quite happily, in your seat.

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It’s not a particularly original or suspenseful story, but it’s a compelling one, tracing Carole King’s early career. We first see her as a precocious teenager, hustling to sell her new song to a music publisher. She meets, collaborates with, and marries a handsome young man, Gerry Goffin, and the two of them go on to write a series of tremendous songs, many of which were enormously successful, for the Shirelles, the Drifters, Little Eva (their sometime babysitter, who made it big with “The Loco-Motion”), the Chiffons, and the Monkees, among others. They became friends and professional rivals with another songwriting couple, Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann, and the hits just kept on coming: “Up on the Roof,” “Will You Love Me Tomorrow,” “You’ve Lost that Lovin’ Feeling,” “On Broadway,” “One Fine Day,” “Take Good Care of My Baby,” and many more.

It’s fun to watch the years go by through the changes in musical styles, the hairdos, and the fashions. The political tumult of the 1960s is only hinted at here…this show is all about the musical and the personal. Carole and Gerry’s marriage was troubled, and when she finally left him (he deserved it), several members of the audience burst into spontaneous applause. With her two young daughters, Carole decided to move to Los Angeles and record some of her own songs, and we end in 1971 with the triumph of her album, Tapestry, her success in concert at Carnegie Hall, and an apology from her ex for all the pain he had caused her. Also, many more classic songs from this second act of her career: “You’ve Got a Friend,” “Beautiful,” “It’s Too Late,” “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman.” (Aretha Franklin’s version of that one with her vocal pyrotechnics is admittedly a classic, but I’ve actually always preferred Carole King’s…it has a certain sweetness to it that few recordings manage to convey.)

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At the end we get “I Feel the Earth Move,” and the audience is invited to sing along. We do…we know all the words.  And we all leave the theater in a terrific mood.

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It’s worth seeing on Broadway if you find yourself in NYC, and it’s also on tour…in the US, in the UK and Ireland, and in Sydney, Australia (through January 2018).

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Laura LaVelle is an attorney and writer who lives in Connecticut, in a not quite 100-year-old house, along with her husband, two daughters, and a cockatiel.

Laura can be contacted at laura@newswhistle.com.

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Stylized Lead-In Image (Beautiful, London) Courtesy of  4kclips / Shutterstock.com

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