Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Cleveland & Akron

Beautiful: The Carole King Musical
National Tour
Review by David Ritchey


Abby Mueller
Photo by Joan Marcus
"I didn't know she wrote that," seemed to be the echo heard round the Connor Palace Theatre, in Cleveland's Playhouse Square. Beautiful: The Carole King Musical took the stage and filled the theater with 26 hit songs by Carole King.

The songs link the life story of Carole King (Abby Mueller) from a 16-year-old girl in the mid-1950s, who takes her first songs to an agent, and concludes with her concert in Carnegie Hall after her award-winning album, "Tapestry."

King's mother encouraged her to be a teacher and forget her dream of being a composer, but she stuck with her dream and met Gerry Goffin (Liam Tobin), who wrote songs with her and married her. They had two children and many hit songs.

Little Eva was their babysitter until they give her a copy of "The Locomotion," which made her a star. Other performers sang through King's life and do so in this show. The Drifters had hits with her songs "Some Kind of Wonderful," "Up on the Roof," and "On Broadway" and The Shirelles performed "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow." Of course, King sang many of her songs, such as "You've Got a Friend," "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman" and "Beautiful."

King, who was a plain teenager, fell in love with Gerry Goffin, who was handsome and talented. Unfortunately, he had emotional problems that led to his unfaithfulness. He insisted they were too young when they married and hadn't experienced enough of life. King was happy being a mother, homemaker, and composer. Their attempts at saving the marriage didn't work. The end of the marriage and her moving from New York City to Los Angeles brought her a new inspiration for writing and new songs that seem autobiographic.

Woven into the King and Goffin story is their friendship with composer and lyricist Barry Mann (Ben Fankhauser) and Cynthia Weil (Becky Gulsvig). Within this show, the lead characters certainly need other characters to hear their thoughts, feelings and frustrations.

Abby Mueller is excellent as King. She sings in a near perfect imitation of King. Liam Tobin is as handsome as a matinee idol should be. He sings well and sweeps the ladies off their feet. The performers who play The Drifters, the Shirelles, Little Eva, and the Righteous Brothers are as good as I remember the originals being.

Beautiful: The Carolee King Musical is a satisfying production. The show links an outstanding script, superior music (with plenty of variety), and talented performers. It is a great night in the theater.

Beautiful: The Carole King Musical plays in Cleveland through April 17, 2016. For tickets to the Cleveland performances, call 216-640-8800 or go to playhousesquare.org/broadway. For more information on the tour, visit beautifulonbroadway.com/tour.

Book: Douglas McGrath
Words & Music: Gerry Goffin, Carole King, Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil
Scenic Design: Derek McLane
Costume Design: Alejo Vietti
Sound Design: Brian Ronan
Music Director: Susan Draus
Choreographer: Josh Prince
Director: Marc Bruni
Carole King: Abby Mueller
Genie Klein: Suzanne Grodner
Betty: Sarah Bockel
Neil Sedaka: John Michael Dias
Lucille: Salisha Thomas (beginning 4/12)/ Ximone Rose
Don Kirshner: Andrew Brewer / Curt Bouril (beginning 4/17), Matt Faucher
Gerry Goffin: Liam Tobin
The Drifters: Josh A. Dawson, Paris Nix, Jay McKenzie, Noah j. Ricketts
Cynthia Weil: Becky Gulsvig / Alaina Mills / Delaney Westfall (beginning 4/16)
Barry Mann: Ben Frankhauser
The Shirelles: Ashley Blanchet, Britney Coleman, Rebecca E. Covington, Salisha Thomas
Janelle Woods: Rebecca E. Covington
Little Eva: Rosharra Francis / Ashley Blanchet (beginning 4/12)
The Righteous Brothers: Andrew Brewer, John Michael Dias
"One Fine Day" Backup Singers: Ashley Blanchet, Britney Coleman, Salisha Thomas
Nick: Matt Faucher / Andrew Brewer (beginning 4/9)
Marilyn Wald: Delaney Westfall / Alaina Mills (beginning 4/16)
"Uptown Singer: Britney Coleman
Lou Adler: John Michael Dias
Conductor/Keys; Susan Draus
associate Conductor/Keys: Nick Williams
Drums: Shannon Ford
Guitar I: Eric Stockton
Electronic Music Design: Billy Jay Stein and Hiro Iida
Music Coordinator: John Miller
Assistant to John Miller: Jennifer Coolbaugh.


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