June 9 at the SHN Golden Gate Theatre inSan Francisco, has the advantage of having the really interesting true-to-lifetale of an American musical icon with which to wrap around a couple of dozeninstantly recognized hits.
The show opens withCarole King (Sarah Bockel) opening her triumphant 1971 Carnegie Hall show butthen moves quickly to her as a 17-year-old songwriter battling with her mother(Suzanne Grodner) over her future. Carole wants to be a songwriter but momwants her to be a teacher. She agrees to commit to teaching if she fails tosell her latest song. She walks into the office of music publisher Don Kirshner(James Clow) and the rest is musical history.
King spent the firstpart of her career writing songs for others in partnership with hereventual-husband Gerry Goffin (Dylan S. Wallach). There are performances ofsuch numbers as “Some Kind of Wonderful” by the Drifters, “Will You Love MeTomorrow” by the Shirelles, and “The Locomotion” by Little Eva, who really wasCarole King’s babysitter before she hit it big.
The fact that Caroleand Gerry’s best friends were another songwriting team increased the musicaloptions for this show. Cynthia Weil (Alison Whitehurst) and Barry Mann (JacobHeimer) add immensely to the story, both through the recreations of their numeroushits (“On Broadway” by the Drifters, “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling” by theRighteous Brothers) and by the humor their characters bring to the story.
The deterioration ofKing’s relationship with Goffin provides the show’s drama culminating with herincredible success as a solo artist and performer with the release of herblockbuster album Tapestries.
Douglas McGrath,better known for his screenplays (Woody Allen’s Bullets over Broadway, Emma)had a lot of material to work with here and does a fine job encapsulating alife in two hours. His book balances the relationship of King and Goffin withthat of Weil and Mann almost to the point of the show really being about both.Most amazingly, he’s written a script that features two music industry veterans(Kirschner and Lou Adler (John Michael Dias) who do not come off asweasels.
Director Marc Bruni’scast is uniformly excellent, from Bockel and Wallach as King and Goffin to theensemble members performing as various members of famous musical groups. The show maintains a pleasant lightness to itthat is never overwhelmed by its more dramatic moments. A good deal of thehumor comes from the relationship of Weil and Mann, and Whitehurst and Heimer areterrifically entertaining in their roles.
Dazzling productionnumbers of a plethora of hits from the 60’s and 70’s combined with the tale ofan American original coming into her own make Beautiful: The Carole KingMusical a thoroughly enjoyable and uplifting evening of musical theatre.
‘Beautiful – TheCarole King Musical’ runs through June 9 at the SHN Golden Gate Theatre in SanFrancisco. Dates and times vary.
For more information, go to shnsf.com
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