Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.

Beautiful: The Carole King Musical
Olney Theatre Center Review by Susan Berlin | Season Schedule

Also see Susan's review of The Colored Museum

Natalie Weiss and Michael Perrie Jr.
Photo by Teresa Castracane Photography
The Olney Theatre Center in suburban Maryland is presenting a bright and satisfying production of Beautiful: The Carole King Musical on its Roberts Mainstage. This winning jukebox musical follows the career of singer-songwriter Carole King (Natalie Weiss) from her teenage days in Brooklyn, dying to write pop songs, through her breakthrough 1971 solo album, Tapestry, of which just about everyone in that generation had a copy.

Douglas McGrath's book emphasizes the human drama behind the creation of rock and roll from the late 1950s through the early 1970s. The score consists of songs from throughout the period by King and Gerry Goffin (Michael Perrie Jr.) and their friends and rivals, Cynthia Weil (Nikka Mirza) and Barry Mann (Calvin McCullough), brought to life by a generously talented cast and 10 (under-the-stage) musicians conducted from the piano by Christopher Youstra.

To begin with, the physical production is entertaining on its own. Debra Kim Sivigny's scenic design is itself often in motion: Performers appear on small platforms that slide across the stage and the large primary set undergoes surprising changes in each scene, highlighted by Colin K. Bills' lighting design that magnifies the use of vivid color. Kendra Rai's costumes shine as the action moves from the prim skirts and blouses of the early 1960s to the more laid-back style epitomized by Carole's second-act macrame blouse. Special mention must be made of the elaborate wig designs created by Larry Peterson and Alia Radabaugh.

While choreographer Ashleigh King has created showcase dances throughout, the production is not all about flash. Director Amy Anders Corcoran draws out the human drama beneath the ephemeral moments of fame and personal satisfaction: as the story starts, Carole is precocious enough to have entered college at age 16. She dreams of writing pop songs, but her mother Genie (the peerless Donna Migliaccio) thinks she should become a music teacher instead. Goffin, outwardly confident but emotionally troubled, becomes her lyricist and ultimately helps her find her own voice and step out of his shadow.

Weiss gives an endearing performance as a young woman fighting for what she thinks she needs and realizing that she can't have everything she wants. Perrie emphasizes Gerry's bullying confidence as well as the darkness he fears will shut down his creativity. Mirza and McCullough are well matched as a songwriting team who, in real life, were married for more than 60 years, ending with Weil's death in 2023.

Bobby Smith is hilariously dyspeptic as music producer Don Kirschner, who oversees young talents in a Broadway office building that Carole calls a factory for music. Also worthy of mention are the singing groups who sell the lead characters' songs, including The Drifters (Quadry Brown, Montel B. Butler, Ian Anthony Coleman, Jay Frisby) and The Righteous Brothers (Kurt Boehm and Connor James Reilly).

Beautiful: The Carole King Musical runs through August 25, 2024, at Olney Theatre Center, Roberts Mainstage, 2001 Olney-Sandy Spring Road, Olney MD. For tickets and information, please call 301-924-3400 or visit

Book by Douglas McGrath
Words and music by Gerry Goffin & Carole King and Barry Mann & Cynthia Weil
Directed by Amy Anders Corcoran
Choreographer: Ashleigh King
Music director: Christopher Youstra

Carole King: Natalie Weiss
Genie Klein: Donna Migliaccio
Betty: Victoria Gómez
Neil Sedaka: Connor James Reilly
Lucille: Kaiyla Gross
Don Kirschner: Bobby Smith
Gerry Goffin: Michael Perrie Jr.
The Drifters: Quadry Brown, Montel B. Butler, Ian Anthony Coleman, Jay Frisby
Cynthia Weil: Nikki Mirza
Barry Mann: Calvin McCullough
The Shirelles: Simone Brown, Ariana Caldwell, Kaiyla Gross, Kalen Robinson
Janelle Woods: Kalen Robinson
Little Eva: Ariana Caldwell
The Righteous Brothers: Kurt Boehm, Connor James Reilly
"One Fine Day" Backup Singers: Simone Brown, Ariana Caldwell, Kaiyla Gross
Nick: Connor James Reilly
Marilyn Wald: Lily Burka
"Uptown" Singer: Simone Brown
Lou Adler: Kurt Boehm
Sound Engineer: Montel B. Butler
"Natural Woman" Backup Singers: Lily Burka, Victoria Gómez, Kaiyla Gross
TV Stage Manager: Victoria Gómez