Regional Reviews: Florida - West Coast
A cabaret show saluting Carole King, one of the seminal figures in 1950s through '70s pop music and beyond is a good idea. Currently, Beautiful: The Carole King Musical remains a big hit on Broadway and on tour. The lady wrote many songs beloved by baby boomers, the age group likely to be attracted by this kind of show. All you need are engaging performers, decent arrangements, and most importantly, a healthy respect for the body of work. The last element is where I fear Carole's Kings goes off the rails a bit. The opening patter casts our three performers almost in roles. Trey Harrington is the Carole King fanatic who learned to love this music as an infant, Jordan Aragon is the dumb bunny who thinks they may be paying tribute to Celine Dion or Beyoncé, and Ken Lear oversees some keyboard work and manages the tracks that accompany much of the show. Although I would not describe myself a huge Carole King fan, there is no doubt in my mind that she is much greater as a composer and performer than Celine Dion or Beyoncé, talented as they are.
We are subjected to too much jokey patter. The visuals help the audience to understand more about the music, who made it popular, etc. Another misstep is the first act closer, "You've Lost That Loving Feeling," a super huge hit of the era for The Righteous Brothers. It was explained that this song represented a style called "The Wall of Sound," which was not a style Ms. King participated in and in fact this song was written by Ms. King's "frenemies" Phil Spector, Barry Mann and Cynthia Weill. Surely, one of Carole King's songs belonged in this choice position. One of the finest moments of the performance occurs in the second half, with the three guys on stools, performing a medley of important Carole King songs from films and television, including "Now and Forever" from A League of Their Own, "Anyone at All" from You've Got Mail, and an unknown but lovely song from "The Gilmore Girls." Here we could just bask in the brilliance of our composer.
I live surrounded by walls of the music I love, hundreds of LPs, thousands of CDs and now a membership in a streaming service so I don't have to buy everything I want to hear. If I want a dose of Carole King, heck no problem. For others not so lucky or insane about music, a visit to Carole's Kings might be an enjoyable afternoon or evening. No doubt the lady is one of the towering figures of pop music.
Carole's Kings, through July 15, 2018, at Florida Studio Theatre, Court Cabaret, 1241 N. Palm Avenue, Sarasota FL. For tickets and performance information, please call the box office at 941-366-9000 or visit www.floridastudiotheatre.org.