Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Philadelphia

Beautiful - The Carole King Musical
National Tour
Review by Rebecca Rendell


Sara Sheperd, Sara King, Ryan Farnsworth,
and James D. Gish

Photo by Joan Marcus
If you are looking for a fun way to warm up from the midwinter blues, Beautiful - The Carole King Musical at the Kimmel Cultural Campus' Academy of Music is sure to make you feel some kind of wonderful. The score is bursting with pop hits from the late 1950s and 1960s, including "The Locomotion," "You've Got a Friend," "I Feel the Earth Move," "On Broadway," and "You've Lost That Loving Feeling." Josh Prince's impeccable choreography and Alejo Vietti's dazzling costume designs bring great energy to the whole catalog of beloved standards. Most importantly, Sara Sheperd shines as the impossibly talented Carole King. I wish more of the actors actually played their instruments, but it's a missed opportunity rather than a calamity.

Beautiful is the true story of King's early career, before she became one of the world's most successful solo artists. At only sixteen a charmingly nervous but decidedly ambitious Carole King pitches and sells her first song, "It Might as Well Rain Until September," to record executive Don Kirshner (Matt Loehr). Months later she meets her future husband and lyricist Gerry Goffin (James D. Gish) at school. Together, Carole and Gerry write a bevy of chart-topping hits that are performed by the most popular artists of the day. They also have two daughters, but Gerry's mental instability and repeated infidelities put a serious strain on the family.

Sheperd sings with an infectious joy that electrifies the entire production. Gish and Shepard have the right chemistry, bringing the audience along on a difficult emotional journey. Loehr is slyly amusing as the hard-nosed industry executive with a heart of gold. King's mother Genie is played with an adroit balance of bitterness, love and humor by Rachel Coloff. Sara King and Ryan Farnsworth perform the roles of Cynthia Well and Barry Mann–Carole and Gerry's real life best friends and most fierce competition. The protean ensemble takes on an impressive variety of roles. It is especially wonderful to watch them transform into all the recording artists, including The Shirelles, Neil Sedaka (Nick Moulton is bang on), The Drifters, and The Righteous Brothers.

Carole King remains one of America's most successful and influential songwriter-singers. Beautiful - The Carol King Musical grants us the pleasures of hearing her music live, learning about the breadth of her cannon, and discovering the heartbreak and triumph of her unique story. If that sounds like a good time, buy your tickets fast, because after February 27th it will be too late, baby.

Beautiful - The Carole King Musical runs through February 27, 2022, at Kimmel Cultural Campus' Academy of Music, 240 S. Broad St., Philadelphia PA. For tickets and information, call 215-893-1999, go to www.kimmelculturalcampus.org, or visit the box office daily from 10 a.m. - 6 p.m.. For more information on the tour, visit beautifulonbroadway.com/tour/.

Cast:
Sara Sheperd (Carole King)
James D. Gish (Gerry Goffin)
Sara King (Cynthia Weil)
Ryan Farnsworth (Barry Mann)
Matt Loehr (Don Kirshner)
Rachel Coloff (Genie Klein)
Edwin Bates (Ensemble)
Kaitlyn Davis (Ensemble)
Rosharra Francis (Ensemble)
Jamary A. Gil (Ensemble)
Kevin Hack (Ensemble)
Danielle Herbert (Ensemble)
Torrey Linder (Ensemble)
Julian Malone (Ensemble)
Nick Moulton (Ensemble)
Nurney (Ensemble)
Teshomech Olenja (Ensemble)
Monet Sabel (Ensemble)
Paul Scanlan (Ensemble)
Sarah Sigman (Ensemble)
Melvin Tunstall III (Ensemble)

Crew: Derek McLane (Set Design)
Alejo Vietti (Costume Design)
Peter Kaczorowski (Lighting Design)
Brian Ronan (Sound Design)
Charles G. LaPointe (Wig and Hair Design)
Steve Sidwell (Orchestrations and Music Arrangements)
Jason Howland (Music Supervision)
John Miller (Music Coordination)


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