Elated, you too might look around the Cadillac Palace Theatre lobby during intermission somewhat surprised that everyone else walking on air isn’t your same age, give or take.
For this writer, the music in Beautiful: The Carole King Musical was coming of age ether. It’s what you heard when you smuggled a contraband transistor radio under your pillow to hear the countdown of the Top Ten as you drifted off.
Like the 20-somethings in the audience, the musical history recounted in Beautiful is likely more news than pre-known for anyone shy of 70. Really? King with husband Gerry Goffin wrote that too? And whatever THEY didn’t write their besties and friendly competitors Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann did?
From Drifters, to Shirelles, to Righteous Brothers and more—musical prodigy King et al put their stamp on the times.
We go with King to Times Square—a place King’s mother describes as the one nice people would prefer hell to—where she makes her first successful bid to music producer Don Kirschner to produce one of her songs. It’s there that she also meets her decade+ collaborator and first husband Gerry Goffin. The story more or less covers their rocky relationship together. It’s a tight book (Book: Douglas McGrath) that tumbles out bon mots and quick gags in between non-stop memory lane songs. The first scene of what this music factory looked and sounded like is in itself a reason to see this show—fun! Fun! Fun!
Broadway in Chicago Musters Top Talents for this Show
Musicals just don’t get more joyful than this one. The talent explosion from the stage makes this l script and its music come to life. Sarah Bockel’s voice and persona is so spot-on Carole King that you may also worry that the real one will now look like an imitation in comparison. Her chords are golden and she is one helluva soulful natural woman and friend. We LOVE her! How could we not!
All the other principals more than do their part—Suzanne Grodner as Carole’s mother Genie Klein; James Clow as Don Kirshner; Andrew Brewer as Gerry Goffin; Sarah Goeke as Cynthia Weil; Jacob Heimer as Barry Mann; etc.
The star power though, and super-fun explosion ,comes most from the short vignette re-creations of the headliners who made these songs famous. Were the real-world Drifters as magnetic and smooth move powered as these guys? (Josh A. Dawson; Jay McKenzie; Avery Smith; Kristopher Stanley Ward) Was Little Eva as adorable as Alexis Tidwell? When the Righteous Brothers first began to sing did everyone nearly gasp with astonishment at the range of their pairing? (John Michael Dias and Matt Faucher). How great that Director Marc Bruni and Music Director Susan Draus unleashed these and all the singers/dancers to not try to be impersonators but rather just get into the soul of the music as written!
Expect to want to jump out of your seat, shout and clap, clap, clap. This is ENTERTAINMENT!
Note: This is now added to the Picture this Post round up of BEST PLAYS IN CHICAGO, where it will remain until the end of the run. Click here to read – Top Picks for Theater in Chicago NOW – Chicago Plays PICTURE THIS POST Loves.
Note: An excerpt of this review now appears in Theatre in Chicago.
Thru January 28
Tuesdays 7:30 pm
Wednesdays 2:00 pm and 7:30 pm
Thursdays 7:30 pm
Fridays 7:30 pm
Saturdays 2:00 pm and 8:00 pm
Sundays 2 pm
Sunday December 10 – additional evening performance
Cadillac Palace Theatre
151 West Randolph
Available at Broadway in Chicago box offices (24 W. Randolph; 151 West Randolph; 18 West Monroe; 175 East Chestnut) or by calling the Broadway in Chicago Ticket Line at 800 775 2000 or visiting the Broadway in Chicago website.
PHOTOS: Matthew Murphy