Regional Reviews: San Francisco/North Bay
Beautiful's plot focuses on the first decade of Carole King's career with the lightning courtship of Gerry Goffin and their breakout hit "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow" through the often troubled marriage and her solo blockbuster album "Tapestry." The story stays in the 1960s in the first act with such wonderful re-creations of such acts as the Drifters, the Righteous Brothers, and the the Shirelles. The first act builds to a peak with Little Eva's novelty hit "The Loca-Motion." The choreographic highlight of the evening is the Mann-Weil song "You've Lost That Loving Feeling" sung by actors playing the Righteous Brothers, closing the first act. The musical contains more drama and fewer songs in the speedy second act. The marital breakup of King and Goffin is vividly depicted and we see King moving into writing on her own.
Abby Mueller as Carole King nicely sings renditions of "It's Too Late" and ("You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman." The piece de resistance is her lovely delivery of "Beautiful" at the end of the production. Mueller has a down-to-earth pulsating voice which sounds like King's, especially on tunes such as "Natural Woman." Liam Tobin gives an excellent performance as songwriting partner and troubled husband Gary Goffin. He has powerful vocal chops.
Becky Gulsvig is vibrant with dynamic vocal cords as Cynthia Weil, and the charismatic Ben Fankhauser plays her partner Barry Mann. Curt Bouril gives an invigorating portrayal of the head of 1650 Broadway, Don Kirshner. Suzanne Grodner gives a fine performance in the small role of Carole's mother Genie Klein.
Beautiful: The Carole King Musical plays through September 18, 2016, at the Orpheum Theatre, 144 Taylor Street, San Francisco. Tickets can be obtained by calling 888-746-1799 or at www.shnsf.com. For more information on the tour, visit beautifulonbroadway.com/tour.