Music & Lyrics by Gerry Goffin & Carole King
and Barry Mann & Cynthia Weil
Directed by Marc Bruni
Choreographed by Josh Prince
Music direction by Steve Sidwell
Produced by Broadway In Chicago
At the Oriental Theatre, Chicago
A tour de force performance by Abby Mueller fuels terrific Beautiful-The Carole King jukebox musical
Beautiful-The Carole King Musical is indeed a slick, masterfully produced jukebox bio-musical with fine lighting (by Peter Kaczorowski) and a dazzling set design (by Derek McLane) upon wonderful sound design (by Brian Ronan) featuring period-perfect costumes (by Alejo Vietti), with a strong supporting cast of singer/dancers making this National Tour a worthy night at the theatre! It plays as a night of nostalgia for those of us who grew up around 1958 to the 1970’s, as rock n’ roll moved from “bubble gum” rock to more sophisticated R & B influenced tunes. Beautiful is a tribute to the factory-like song writers who fueled rock music from the 1950’s until well into the 1970 in New York City.
We meet a sixteen year old Brooklyn Jewish girl who strives to be a rock music composer after studying classical music. Her determination gets her to producer Don Kirshner’s song factory and lands her a gig. Carole King’s journey begins as she teams up with Gerry Goffin as her lyricist. Abby Mueller and Liam Tobin star as the song writer married couple. The sparks fly as this passionate couple create terrific hit tunes together: “Oh Carol,” “It Might as Well Rain Until September, ” “Be-Bop-A-Lula,” “Some Kind of Wonderful,” ” Take Care of My Baby,” are among the couple’s early hits. This jukebox musical also features the story and hits of another song writer team, Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, played nicely by Ben Frankhauser and Becky Gulsvig, who competed with Goffin & King in Kirshner’s song factory to create hit tunes. The two couples became friends, as each inspired the other team to strive for more Number One Hits. Mann & Weil wrote: “Who Put the Bump,” “On Broadway,” “You’ve Lost that Lovin’ Feeling,” and “We Gotta Get Out of This Place,” among others. Together, these two couples produced a significant number of early rock and R & B standards making Beautiful a pleasant nostalgic trip back to my generation’s past, as well as introducing contemporary folks to the genius of these tunes.
But, for sure, Beautiful is indeed a bio-musical of Carole King. Amazingly, after her sister, Jessie Mueller won a Tony Award for playing Carol King on Broadway, sister Abby Mueller was cast in the same role for the first national tour of Beautiful! Talk about keeping it in the family! While I have not seen Jessie Mueller’s portrayal of Carole King, I have witnessed both Abby and Jessie on stage in musicals at Marriott and Drury Lane for many years, so I knew that each was perfect for the part. The Tony’s told us Jessie Mueller was right and the appreciative Chicago audience and I witnessed how outstanding Abby is as Carole King! As the lights came up to open the show, Abby Mueller received applause. What a thrilling moment for her and the Mueller clan proudly setting in the audience. And as she show demonstrated, Abby made the role of Carole King her own with her empathetic performance of the insecure young King who develops herself into a strong person as her talent emerges. We easily love Abby’s Carole King, and we enjoy Mueller’s fabulous delivery of the famed King tunes. “Will You Love Me Tomorrow,” “It’s Too late,” “You’ve Got a Friend,” and “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” never sounded better. With all the glitz and glamour, Beautiful The Carole King Musical is a terrific jukebox musical, but it is also a tour de force performance by Abby Mueller. She gives the show genuine heart.
Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast
Date Reviewed; December 2, 2015
For more info checkout Beautiful The Carole King Musical page at theatreinchicago.com
At the Oriental Theatre, 24 W. Randolph, Chicago, IL call 800-775-2000, www.broadwayinchicago.com, tickets are $30- $140, Tuesdays thru Sundays, running time is 2hours, 30 minutes with intermission, through February 21, 2016