Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

World of Carole King Put to Words

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

World of Carole King Put to Words

Article excerpt



New Broadway musical, at the Stephen Sondheim Theatre, 124 W. 43rd St.

Book by Douglas McGrath. Songs by Carole King, Gerry Goffin, Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil. Directed by Marc Bruni.

With Jessie Mueller, Jake Epstein, Anika Larsen and Jarrod Spector.

Schedule: 7 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday; 8 p.m. Friday; 2 and 7 p.m. Wednesday; 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday; 3 p.m. Sunday.

Tickets: $75 to $152. 212-239-6200, or

Jukebox musicals - shows that use existing, usually pop, songs - have become so numerous on Broadway in recent years, you can divide them into subcategories.

"Beautiful," which draws on the Carole King catalog to tell the singer-songwriter's life story, is in the "Jersey Boys"/"Motown" genre.

That is, the show, which opened Sunday at the Stephen Sondheim Theatre, doesn't try to integrate its numbers as traditional theater songs, revealing characters' feelings or advancing the narrative. (Considering that King's early hits included "The Locomotion," that was probably a wise choice.)

Instead, the songs exist alongside the story, presented as numbers being auditioned, recorded or sung at a club. It's a two- track approach: a play accompanied by a concert.

The result is a very mixed bag.

The musical numbers are great fun, presented with style and humor. Many have been choreographed by Josh Prince with spirited re- creations of early '60s moves, performed by impersonators of acts like the Drifters, the Shirelles and the Righteous Brothers.

The show's book, by Douglas McGrath, registers mostly as a series of interruptions.

While not exactly amateurish, it aims very low, settling for the tried and trite. ("You know what's so funny about life? Sometimes it goes the way you want and sometimes it doesn't.") A big boost comes, though, from the warmly natural portrayal of King by Jesse Mueller, who also possesses a lovely, supple singing voice.

Big break

The long first act is devoted to King's early years, when she emerged as one of the top creators of 1960s' teen pop, co-writing songs like "Take Good Care of My Baby," "Will You Love Me Tomorrow" and "Up on the Roof. …

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