- Beautiful: The Carole King Musical celebrates the career of one of pop music's most legendary songwriters.
We're all familiar with Carole King's music, whether we realize it or not.
We recognize her earthy songs on the local oldies station; like "It's Too Late" and "I Feel the Earth Move," both tracks from King's most beloved record, 1971's Tapestry. We also recognize dozens of other chart-toppers by the gifted composer and lyricist, perhaps without the realization that King wrote them — for some of most popular American music acts of the 1960s.
Even before King made a name for herself with her four-time Grammy-winning Tapestry, she was churning out hit after hit. The Chiffons' peppy "One Fine Day" was hers, written with songwriting partner and first husband Gerry Goffin. Together, they also penned the Drifters' 1962 hit "Up on the Roof." The Shirelles' "Will You Love Me Tomorrow" was theirs, too, notably becoming the first song recorded by an all-woman group to reach No. 1 in the U.S.
The popular new show Beautiful: The Carole King Musical — playing concurrently on Broadway, London's West End and as a North American touring production — shows us how King went from a brilliant 16-year-old songwriter to become one of the most iconic women in music history.
The list of King's contributions to recording history is long. She's been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and was the first woman to receive the Library of Congress' Gershwin Prize for Popular Song in 2013. We know that King, now 74, is a legend, and Beautiful shows us how she became one.
"It's a very captivating story about this young woman and the struggles she went through to get where she was when Tapestry happened," reflects principal cast member Suzanne Grodner, who plays King's mother, Genie Klein. Beautiful portrays Klein as supportive but realistically wary of her daughter's aspirations.
"There really were no women writers, lyricists or composers at that time. Genie was also a playwright, and knew how difficult it was going to be for Carole going into this male-dominated music world," Grodner explains. "Yet in the end, she was Carole's biggest supporter."
Grodner has been with Beautiful's North American tour — stopping in Spokane from Nov. 9-13 to kick off the INB Performing Arts Center's 2016-17 Best of Broadway season — since it began in September 2015, and has seen the story of King's rise to stardom resonate with all ages.
"We have people coming to see the show in their 50s, 60s and 70s who grew up with Carole as the soundtrack of their lives," Grodner says on the phone from Seattle. "We find that everywhere we go in the country, people respond to this kind of music, and that a lot of people are bringing their younger daughters and sons to the show."
Opening on Broadway in January 2014, original cast member Jessie Mueller notably took home a Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical for her portrayal of King. Beautiful's soundtrack also received the 2015 Grammy for Best Musical Theater Album. Even so, critics have called the show a "formulaic bio-musical" that tends to awkwardly bounce from song to song.
Criticism aside, Beautiful offers a lesser-known look at King's maturation from a faceless name in one of the famed pop-song factories of the 1950s and '60s (she got her start at the 1650 Broadway music offices, near the storied Brill Building) to one of most iconic singer-songwriters of all time.
"I think that the early songs that she wrote are really going to surprise the audience who come to see it," Grodner remarks. "Carole is an icon, and to tell her story to audiences around the country is a real privilege." ♦
Beautiful: The Carole King Musical • Wed, Nov. 9 to Sun, Nov. 13: Wed-Sat at 7:30 pm; Thu, Sat at 2 pm; Sun at 1 and 6:30 pm • $27.50-$77.50 • INB Performing Arts Center • 334 W. Spokane Falls Blvd. • wcebroadway.com • 279-7000