Beautiful: The Carole King Musical

by Les Spindle

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Tuesday June 28, 2016

Beautiful: The Carole King Musical

The genres of bio-musical and jukebox musical merged serendipitously at the 2014 Tony awards, when the biographical "Beautiful: The Carole King Musical" aced two honors (actress in a leading role, for Jessie Mueller as iconic singer/songwriter King, and sound design for Brian Ronan), out of seven nominations.

A serendipitous amalgam of beloved music that evokes a golden era of American pop within the framework of a funny and touching bio-drama, this richly entertaining tuner (book by Douglas McGrath, songs by Gerry Goffin and King, as well as Barry Mann and Cynthia Weill, plus others) is a winner all the way.

The musical is currently making its LA bow in a splendid touring edition engagement at Hollywood's Pantages Theatre. In an unusual move, Abby Mueller replaces her Tony-winning younger sister Jesse Mueller in the title role. Those who saw the Broadway production and view the current edition can draw comparisons. The rest of us can simply revel in the splendid vocal and acting talents of Abby Mueller and a fine cast. Mueller creates a moving and captivating portrayal, and croons the golden-oldies songbook with skill and panache, evoking a blissfully nostalgic experience, perhaps especially so for Baby Boomers.

A bittersweet story, the Carole King biographical tale evokes laughter and sadness in McGrath's engaging book, which is beautifully integrated with a terrific song score. Golden hits of yesteryear by King and other notable songwriters (such as the glorious title tune, "Will You Love Me Tomorrow," "Up on the Roof," "On Broadway," and "You've Lost That Loving Feeling" and many more) keep rolling along during the musically exhilarating production. Musical direction by Susan Draus and her many collaborators on the tour production is first rate. Josh Prince's choreography is electric and evocative.

Beginning with a monologue delivered by King at Carnegie Hall, the narrative looks back at the artist's life and meteoric career, from aspiring songwriter in Brooklyn in the 1950s, through her collaborations with unfaithful husband Gary Goffin (superb Liam Tobin) during the 1960s, and ongoing work as a solo artist, during the 1970s and beyond.

The story of King and Goffin's ill-fated marriage also charts the friendship and competitive tension that evolved between this showbiz couple and the songwriting duo of Barry Mann (in a fine portrayal by Ben Fankhauser) and Cynthia Weil (superbly played by Becky Gulsvig).

The book packs a lot of narrative around the cavalcade of chart-topping hits, and exudes more substance and genuine heart than are often found in the jukebox genre. The diversity of moods and styles in the wonderful songs included here provide solid support for the alternately funny and touching story.

The handsome and versatile set by Derek McLane shifts effortlessly among various locales and beautifully evokes the story's showbiz background. Alejo Vietti's costumes are likewise dazzling and evocative. Peter Kaczorowski's lighting further enhances the electrifying mood of the show.

"Beautiful" is an apt way to describe this irresistible journey into musical glories of yesteryear, wrapped into an absorbing and deeply affecting biographical narrative, which is also a deserving tribute to a legendary artist.

"Beautiful: The Carole King Musical," runs through July 17 at the Pantages Theatre, 6233 Hollywood Blvd., L.A. For information or tickets, call (800) 982-2787 or visit or