By Paige Allison
The Lied Center, Friday February 11, 2022 7:30PM
After decades of broad-ranging musical influence, it is fitting that this week the effervescent Carole King sees a new milestone! It is difficult to believe she is celebrating her 80th birthday. Her music remains iconic in American culture, as relevant today as at its creation. Her Grammys, accolades, and honors, although well earned, pale in the light of her organic impact on the music industry. Find a young adult today who doesn’t recognize “You’ve Got a Friend.” IF you can find one, be their friend and introduce them to King’s work!
Beautiful chronicles the rise of King (born Carole Klein) through the ranks of the music publishing industry in the 1960s and early 70s. Her deeply personal challenges are embedded in her music and delivered with a passion that is palpable. The cast does not disappoint. The show is compelling, emotional and if I may say so… educational. Almost every audience member is certain to have one “aha” moment as they realize “Carole King wrote that?!” Details of King’s early marriage to song writing partner Gerry Goffin and her enduring friendship with fellow song writers Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil are sure to enlighten audiences as well.
Truly King’s art does not IMITATE life, but it is her life. Beautiful – The Carole King Musical is told through her songs. The show begins with 16-year-old Carole (Sara Sheperd) pitching a song to music publisher Don Kirshner (Matt Loehr) at Aldon Music Publishing in Manhattan. Carole (born Carole Klein but adopting the stage name King early on) meets Gerry Goffin (James D Gish) at Queens College in New York around the same time. He studied chemistry and she was a reluctant education major. The two embark upon a musical and romantic collaboration almost immediately, creating songs including “Will You Love Me Tomorrow,” “Up on a Roof,” “The Locomotion,” and “One Fine Day” – all songs that are assigned to and recorded by other artists. King and Goffin’s work are recorded by the Drifters, the Chiffons, the Shirelles, The Righteous Brothers, Little Eva, and many more. Later King would have over 400 hit songs, recorded by over 1000 artists to include Kylie Minogue, Grand Funk Railroad, Whitney Houston, Aretha Franklin, James Taylor, and Rod Stewart to name a very few.
As the picture of King’s professional evolution becomes clearer, we see her mature. The audience is privy to the details of her personal relationships with Goffin, colleagues and other artists in her early years. As a self-described “ordinary person,” she sees herself strictly as a composer and not as a lyricist, much less a performing artist. During their tenure at Aldon Publishing, King and Goffin become friendly competitors and best friends with the songwriting powerhouse duo, Barry Mann (Ryan Farnsworth) and Cynthia Weil (Sara King). Mann and Weil’s hits include “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling,” “Walking In the Rain,” “On Broadway,” and “We Gotta Get Out of this Place,” each of which make cameo appearances in the show, thus bringing the nature of King’s early work into focus.
Act Two finds King and Goffin’s marriage breaking down, under pressure from family demands, success, burnout, and mental illness. The song “It’s Too Late” seems to be inspired by this era of their relationship. King finds herself solo, raising their two daughters as she embarks on her independent career on the West Coast. Encouraged by colleagues, King has an epiphany as she is enticed to sing “So Far Away.” Her parting song for Mann and Weil seems to have been inspired by her impending move to the opposite coast as she reassures them “You’ve Got a Friend.” In California, King finds her own voice in the studio, recording her hit “(You Make Me Feel Like A) Natural Woman” and realizes the power she has had all along. The show’s name is taken from her song “Beautiful,” performed at Carnegie Hall at the commencement of her solo singing career. The rest is history in the making and we are all better for it.
Of note, the show is written by King, Goffin, Mann and Weil. It is executively produced by King and Goffin’s second oldest daughter, Sherry (Goffin) Kondor and Goffin’s manager of 19 years, Christine Russell. Goffin passed away in 2014 but Kondor is honored to be able to share her parents’ legacy with new audiences. The talented cast of 21 actors includes seasoned performers from Broadway, television, and recording studio fame. Rachel Coloff plays the role of Carole’s mother. The ensemble and swing cast includes Edwin Bates, Kaitlyn Davis, Rosharra Francis, Jamary A. Gil, Kevin Hack, Danielle Herbert, Torrey Linder, Julian Malone, Nick Moulton, Nurney, Tesomech Olenja, Monet Sabel, Paul Scanlan, Sarah Sigman, and Melvin Tunstall III; most assuming numerous roles throughout the show.
The culmination of this delightful evening of entertainment finds the audience on their feet clapping and singing along with King’s rendition of “I Feel the Earth Move.” A standing ovation…..Everyone feels as if they know King. We hear her heart in her music. We all have learned something, and we all have a new friend. We only need to call out her name.
If you go: Beautiful – The Carole King Musical will run at the Lied Center Saturday with matinee and evening shows and one show on Sunday, February 13. Call the Box Office at the Lied for tickets 402-472-4747 or go online at http://www.liedcenter.org.
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