Home US News UK News Australia News Saudi Arbia News United Arab Emirates News Test Series India News List My Startup Chat With PDF Cheap Flights Free Url Shortener Contact Us Advertise More From Zordo

Carole King musical is enjoyable, if not earth-moving

4 days ago 32

There’s a contradiction at the center of “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical,” a buoyant and enjoyable if not particularly curious dramatization of roughly the first dozen years of the groundbreaking singer-songwriter’s career that opened at Olney Theatre Center on Saturday night: By making its narrative spine King’s evolution from teenage Brill Building hitmaker to Earth-moving solo singer-songwriter, the show asks us to buy for 2.4 of its 2.5 hours that its subject is insecure about performing in public. This was true of King, early in her career. It just isn’t, you know. Believable.

Not in the context of a musical, anyway. Natalie Weiss, a popular YouTuber/TikToker and vocal coach, embodies the nascent star in Olney’s production with more warmth than depth, but she’s got it where it counts: in the pipes. The only time I didn’t believe her was when she was protesting, as the show repeatedly requires King to protest, that she’d rather write songs for others than have people watch her perform them herself.

It would be unfair to expect an actor to fill in the psychological blanks left by Douglas McGrath’s book, which has the reverential tenor of an authorized biography throughout its first act and becomes downright hagiographical in its too-hurried second. But anyone who’s read “A Natural Woman,” the memoir King published in 2012 — a year before “Beautiful” had its world premiere at San Francisco’s Curran Theatre — will recognize that Weiss’s inviting characterization isn’t far removed from the way the self-effacing King describes herself.

While King’s gifts as a composer were evident from the moment she sold her first song to publisher Don Kirshner at the age of 16, it wasn’t until her late 20s — after she’d divorced her philandering husband and songwriting partner Gerry Goffin and lit out for the leafy Los Angeles hamlet of Laurel Canyon — that she came fully into her own with “Tapestry,” the Grammy Award-winning, mega-selling 1971 album that remains her most singular creation. King’s headlining debut at Carnegie Hall that summer serves as the climax to “Beautiful,” which derives what little dramatic tension it achieves from two sources: King’s losing battle to persuade creatively and sexually restless Goffin (a nimble Michael Perrie Jr.) to embrace monogamous domesticity, and the songwriting team’s friendly rivalry with another prolific pair of hitmakers and romantic partners, Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann (Nikki Mirza and Calvin McCullough, respectively).

The caffeinated tempo of Olney’s crowd-pleasing production is often an asset: When director Amy Anders Corcoran smash-cuts from King and Goffin working through their demo of “Some Kind of Wonderful” in Kirshner’s office to the Drifters performing the released version in their bedazzled blue tuxedos, we feel what a rush it must have been for a pair of still-wet-behind-the ears artists to have their songs performed on TV and radio, and in clubs that King, at least, was not yet old enough to get into. At the same time, you feel some sympathy for the four guys who look and sound so smooth as the Drifters, who like many members of the large company don’t even get to speak lines of dialogue.

Weiss’s relentlessly plucky King gets some tonal ballast from Donna Migliaccio’s saturnine take on Genie Klein, the songwriter’s less-than-encouraging mother, and especially from Bobby Smith’s lovably gruff Kirshner, who has an ability to recognize a hit when he hears one, even if it’s not always aligned with his personal taste.

McGrath’s narrative impatience becomes harder to overlook in the second act, which speedwalks through King’s decision to leave Goffin, and the East Coast, so we can get to the “Tapestry” numbers. James Taylor, who became a lifelong friend to King after her move west and encouraged her to perform isn’t mentioned at all, while Kurt Boehm’s scene in a terrible wig as producer Lou Adler — nudging King to put aside the painful memories of her marriage and record her own take of “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” a Goffin/King/Jerry Wexler song that had already been a Top 10 hit for Aretha Franklin — is so brief it borders on parody.

But again, the story is not the reason “Beautiful” has become a reliable seat-filler. We’re here to hear these ancient-but-ageless chart-toppers — King/Goffin’s “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?” recorded by the Shirelles; Mann/Weil’s “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling,” recorded by the Righteous Brothers, plus two dozen others — performed by energetic singers. I can cling to my generally low regard for jukebox musicals while admitting this policy is sort of snobbish and nonsensical, especially when I find myself cheerfully nodding along to songs I didn’t even know I knew. After all, how many of the new musicals that have arrived since “Beautiful” can boast songs as undeniable as these classics?

As Saint Stephen Sondheim once put it, “Damn few.”

Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, through Aug. 25 at Olney Theatre Center in Olney, Md. Two hours, 30 minutes, including one intermission. olneytheatre.org.

Read Entire Article