If you have any lingering winter blues, I recommend you make your way to the Fox Theatre for a delightful evening of ’60s-and-’70s pop songs wrapped around the theatrical biography that is “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical.”
Abby Mueller gives a charming performance in the title role, as the show charts the artist’s life from teenage songwriter to her tumultuous marriage to songwriting partner Gerry Goffin to their friendship/rivalry with songwriting duo Barry Mann and Chythia Weil and finally to King’s crowning musical achievement — her solo album “Tapestry.”
Curt Bouril (Don Kirshner), Liam Tobin (Gerry Goffin), Abby Mueller (Carole King), Ben Fankhauser (Barry Mann) and Becky Gulsvig (Cynthia Weil) in a scene from “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical.” Photo by Joan Marcus
The story begins with young Carole trying to convince her mother (Suzanne Grodner) to let her leave their Brooklyn home for the dangers of Time Square so that she can sell her new song to record producer Don Kirshner (Curt Bouril). Kirshner buys the tune but she has trouble selling a followup because her lyrics are weak. Enter Gerry Goffin (Liam Tobin), whom Carole meets through a mutual friend. Gerry is better at words than music and soon the duo are making beautiful music together.
They also make a baby, which leads to marriage and the stresses that come with trying to juggle family and a highly stressful, competitive career. Helping them through the highs and lows are their best friends Barry Mann (Ben Fankhauser) and Cynthia Weil (Becky Gulsvig), another songwriting duo. The two couples form a friendly rivalry to see who can pen the most Top 40 hits.
With book by Douglas McGrath and music by King, Goffin, Mann and Weil, “Beautiful” tells a moving and touching story with almost two dozen pop classics as the soundtrack – including such memorable tunes as “So Far Away,” “Will You Love Me Tomorrow,” “On Broadway,” “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling” and “You’ve Got a Friend.”
In addition to the four leads, songs are performed by substitute versions of Neil Sedaka, The Drifters, The Shirelles, Little Eva and the Righteous Brothers. Sadly, there were no faux-Monkees even though the show did work in one of their Goffin-King hits, “Pleasant Valley Sunday.”
With its clever set design, terrific music and talented cast, “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical” is a highlight of the theater season.
“Beautiful: The Carole King Musical” runs through March 6.