[Note: Chilina Kennedy, who replaced Jessie Mueller as King in 2015 and has played the role for most of the run, returns to the production starting January 3, 2019.]
Beautiful—The Carole King Musical shares several virtues with its titular singer-songwriter, among them humility, earnestness and dedication to craft. If Douglas McGrath’s book never achieves the dramatic grit or comic zip of Jersey Boys, at least director Marc Bruni’s production avoids being a brain-dead, self-satisfied hit parade à la Berry Gordy’s Motown. Still, it does seem that stretches of Broadway’s newest jukebox musical consist of situations such as this: “Carole, you’ve got to write us a hit!” “I’ve written something.” “It’s a hit!” Yes, Beautiful loves its diligent, long-suffering pop genius, and invites you to do the same.
It’s quite an easy task when you have the phenomenal Jessie Mueller in the lead. The effortlessly appealing star cut her teeth on Broadway flops (the mis-reconceived On a Clear Day You Can See Forever) and in supporting parts (The Mystery of Edwin Drood). Now she’s ready to carry a show. As Brooklyn-raised King, who started churning out teenybopper tunes at 1650 Broadway in the late ’50s, Mueller exudes warmth and common sense, playing up King’s old-fashioned modesty and insecurity without becoming a doormat or cipher. And when she wraps her rich, burnished voice around those hits—“So Far Away,” “Will You Love Me Tomorrow,” “It’s Too Late”—they feel as fresh as the day King penned them.
McGrath’s deft, wry book tracks its hero’s tortured first marriage to lyricist-partner Gerry Goffin (Jake Epstein) and their friendly rivalry with another songwriting couple, Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil (Jarrod Spector, Anika Larsen), humanizing the principals in quick, confident brushstrokes. By the end, when King records her iconic feminist love anthem, “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman,” you realize how effectively this hooky, soulful songbook and Mueller’s smartly wistful performance deliver emotional release. When the divine Mueller lets loose, you feel the earth move.—David Cote
Stephen Sondheim Theatre (Broadway). Book by Douglas McGrath. Music and lyrics by Carole King, Gerry Goffin, Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil. Directed by Marc Bruni. With Jessie Mueller. Running time: 2hrs 30mins. One intermission.
Follow David Cote on Twitter: @davidcote
|Venue name:||Stephen Sondheim Theatre|
124 W 43rd St
|Cross street:||between Sixth Ave and Broadway|
|Transport:||Subway: N, Q, R, 42nd St S, 1, 2, 3, 7 to 42nd St–Times Sq|
Average User Rating
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Simply spectacular. Jessie Mueller deserves her Tony x100 and the brilliant Carol King's life story is inspiring. Not to mention the amazing music that keep you hooked the entire show. What a great story to portray. Def go see this show!
Another Broadway jukebox musical that manages to seep past "Hey! I know that song!" sentimentality.
Jessie Mueller is by far, the best part of this show, and definitely proved why she won the Tony. While many know Carole King's legendary Tapestry album (which I played my mom's copy to a scratch) , it's pretty neat to look into the shy, yet brilliant woman that became the 70's mega superstar we know today.
Take the whole family, the older ones to get into the groove of yesteryear, and the young ones to get a lesson on some of the greatest songwriters who ever lived.
Anyone who grew up withhh the Tapestry album and Carole King will love this wonderful play. Jessie Mueller is fabulous as Carole King. i only wish the play continued through her solo career.