As presented by her nationwide touring company at the Lied Center for Performing Arts on Friday, “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical” is, well, beautiful — a thoroughly enjoyable and superbly performed account of King’s, two-time Rock and Roll Hall inductee of Fame. story.
Carried by a terrific and compelling performance from Sara Sheperd as King, who not only sings but plays the piano, the musical opens with 16-year-old Carole Klein leaving her Brooklyn home to try and sell a song at the music editor Don Kirscher, who then introduces King (his “composer name”) to Gerry Goffin (played by a very good James D. Gish), who became his lyricist, the father of his daughter and her husband — in this order.
He’s also hosting a friendly competition with Broadway’s other songwriting pair — Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil — to see who might have the longest and oldest No. 1 hits.
This allows the show to present their music in context rather than as subtext, akin to the musical jukebox. So there are cleverly costumed and choreographed musical cameos from The Drifters and The Shirelles, The Righteous Brothers and “One Fine Day” singer Janelle Woods.
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And, of course, there’s the famous story of how Goffin and King turned their babysitter Little Eva into a star with “The Locomotion,” which got a delivery hosted by Jamary A. Gil in one. of the greatest productions of the musical. Numbers.
Fortunately, the arrangements of the early ’60s hits – and later songs from King’s 1971 solo album ‘Tapestry’ don’t drive the Broadway numbers too high, making them feel as ‘real’ as possible in a musical presentation.
Songs from “Tapestry,” which drew instant applause from the audience, make up much of the musical’s second act, which explores, with some drama, Goffin’s mental breakdown, the breakdown of the Goffin- King and King’s move to California, where she recorded the classic album.
This, perhaps, seems dry and heavy. But “Beautiful” is funny throughout, with Ryan Farnsworth contributing plenty of laughs — and a rock rendition of “We Gotta Get Out of This Place” — as the hypochondriac Mann.
“Beautiful” was originally meant to be part of Lied’s 2020 series, but was a pandemic postponement. Suffice it to say, Friday’s superb performance proved the wait was worth it.
“Beautiful: The Carole King Musical” will return to the Lied Stage for two performances on Saturday and one show on Sunday afternoon.
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