The “jukebox musical” is no longer a term of endearment. So it’s a good thing that the jukebox musical has found its way to the other side.
It doesn’t matter that few would have a bigger jukebox than Carole King because “Beautiful-The Carole King Musical,” at The Stephen Sondheim Theatre, is actually a “non-jukebox” musical. “Beautiful” is a story, almost a drama with a track, that covers Carole King’s journey from hitmaker to hit singer-songwriter. It moves from 1650 Broadway (“not the Brill Building”) to the “Tapestry” album and her appearance at the piano at Carnegie Hall. It is biography so it sticks to a timeline. The songs don’t move the story along so much as they are the story.
|Jeb Brown as Don Kirshner, Jake Epstein as Gerry Goffin,
Jessie Mueller as Carole King, Jarrod Spector as Barry Mann,
and Anika Larsen as Cynthia Weil in
“Beautiful – The Carole King Musical” on Broadway at
the Stephen Sondheim Theater (c)Joan Marcus
Carole King (Jessie Mueller) had her first chart topper in 1959, when, at 17 she and her husband, lyricist Gerry Goffin (Jake Epstein), gave The Shirelle’s a huge hit in “Will You Love Me Tommorrow.” From there the hits just kept coming, until one day, years later, Carole King began singing and playing her own music.
Rock and roll did not die, but as Gerry Goffin predicted, it changed under the influence of folk and split off into all kinds of pop and crackle from The Monkees to metal. For many practitioners in the medium, rock and roll went deeper and became more expressive than “The Locomoton” (another King-Goffin hit.)
|Jessie Mueller as Carole King in “Beautiful – The Carole King Musical”
on Broadway at the Stephen Sondheim Theater (c)Joan Marcus
“Beautiful” thoroughly integrates the music into the plot. “Beautiful” doesn’t take its legends too seriously. Jessie Mueller gets Carole King’s inflections and phrasing, but not just in a mimicky way. It can’t be easy to personify Carole King when so mnay of us have known her so well and for so long. Jessie Mueller pulls this off as well. King has been a star for most of my life and much of hers, but she is not a glamourous presence. Mueller captures this too–, the simple girl whose genius is undisputed so that even she cannot deny it.
|The Shirelles (L-R: Ashley Blanchet, Rashidra Scott, Alysha Deslorieux, and Carly Hughes) in “Beautiful – The Carole King Musical” on Broadway at the Stephen Sondheim Theater (c)Joan Marcus|
The excellent work by Jeb Brown as Don Kirshner and Jake Epstein as Gerry Goffin back Mueller up. Also outstanding in a great ensemble, under Marc Bruni’s fine direction, are Anika Larsen, charming as Cynthia Weil, and Jarrod Spector as Cynthia’s writing partner, Barry Mann.
“Beautiful- The Carole King Musical” steps out of the jukebox genre to deliver a moving portrait of its eponymous heroine, and the times in which her art was forged.
For more informaton about “Beautiful,” please visit http://www.beautifulonbroadway.com/.