By Iride Aparicio

Photos by: Joan Marcus

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – For those who love CAROLE KING’s songs, “BEAUTIFUL the Carole King Musical” is the place to hear them.  

Presented by SHN at the SHN Orpheum Theatre in the city as part of their 2016 Subscription Series, ‘BEAUTIFUL, the Carole King Musical,” walks the audience along the “Memory Lane Road” traveled by KING, as it reveals to them the inspiring true story of a l6 years old girl remarkable rise to stardom after she started combining her melodies with her husband’s GERRY GOFFIN’s lyrics.

And as one sees the details from KING's life acted on the stage, we get to know Carole better. We meet  her best friends, writers  CYNTHIA WEIL AND BARRY MANN and have many opportunities to listen to her songs.   

I’ve always been a very private person,” says the real CAROLE KING to an interviewer in an interview printed on the show’s program, “so initially, I was horrified by the idea of my life being turned into a musical.” Perhaps realizing, later on, that the story of her life, was a story that needed to be told, she allowed playwright DOUGLAS McGRATH, to write the musical’s book telling her story.

"BEAUTIFUL, the CAROLE KING Musical" follows KING from the time she was a 16-years old composer and had her first promotional single, “The Right Girl,” released by ABC-Paramount in l958, to  years later, when she wrote “Tapestry.” in l971. The album spent more than 300 weeks in the US Charts and is considered one of the most successful albums in pop music history.  

It took five years to develop BEAUTIFUL the musical, with words and music by GERRY GOFFING & CAROLE KING and /BARRY MANN & CINTHIA WEIL. Produced by PAUL BLAKE and directed by MARC BRUNI it made its World Premiere in San Francisco, on September 2013. BEAUTIFUL was then previewed on Broadway in November of  that year, and opened at the Stephen Sondheim Theatre on January 12, 2014, It won to Tony Awards, one for JESSIE MUELLER or Best Performance by an actress in a Leading role in a Musical for her portrayal of King,  and another for BRIAN ROMAN for Best Sound Design in a Musical.

ABBY MUELLER as Carole & LIAM TOBIN as Gerry Goffin

This second time around, with ABBY MUELLER, in the role of Carole King, BEAUTIFUL begins with the 16 years old James Madison High School student, in Brooklyn, N.Y. at home accompanying herself at the piano and singing in a slightly nasal tone. She tells her mother that she had composed another song and and she needs her permission to go to Don Kirshner’s Dimension Records to peddled her song. With the acceptance of her song by Kirshner. (CURT BOURIL) CAROLE KING's career as a composer begins

Later on, after meeting Gerry Goffin (LIAM TOBIN) at the recording studio, (in reality they met at Queens College) they become "The songwriting Team" for Kirshner. with KING writing the music and Goffin writing the lyrics for songs for other singers. And as they produce these new songs, we the audience, have a chance to hear them. Some are: “So Far Away,” sang by KING,  “ 1650 Broadway Medley” interpreted by an ensemble,  “Will you Love me Tomorrow’ interpreted by the Shirelles (ASHLEY BLANCHET, BRITNEY COLEMAN, REBECCA E. COVINGTON and SALISHA THOMAS) which was a Billboard Hot l00 #1 hit and the first No.1 hit for a Black girl group. “It might as Well Rain Until September” sang by KING,  “The Locomotion” sang by The Drifters, (JOSH A. DAWSON, PARIS NIX, JAY MCKENZIE, & NOAH J. RICKETTS) and “Take good Care of my Baby,”Sang by GOFFIN and KING, to name a few.  We also hear a good rendition of  “ Oh Carol” composed by Neil Sedaka (JOHN MICHAEL DIAS) for Carole, sang by DIAS playing the Sedaka Role.

 L-R MUELLER, as Carole BULSVIG as Weil, FRANKHAUSER as Barry TOBIN as Gerry in SHN production of BEAUTIFUL, The Carole King Musical

And with dialogue and a string of  beautiful songs, BEAUTIFUL, the musical, reveals to the audience two love stories. The story of Carole and Gerry,  and the one of  lyricist Cynthia Weil (BECKY GULSVIG)  and composer Barry Mann (BEN FANKHAUSE)  Carole’s friends, but also the Songwriting Team that competes  with KING and GOFFIN for the #1 songs  in the Billboard Charts. And with the addition of these two new composers we have a chance to hear more beutiful songs.

At some point, however, the story gets dramatic, so, at  the end, forced by circumstances and encouraged by her mother, Carole (MUELLER) start writing the music and the lyrics her songs and recording Albums, alone.

The Cast of BEAUTIFUL the Carole King Musical

On Press Opening Night, the acting of the members of the  cast of BEAUTIFUL was  realistic. Their voices were pleasant, and all sang well. Carole (MUELLER) succeeded in imitating the real CAROLE KING’s tone,  and her performance on that night was powerful enough to make us feel her happiness and her pain. At the end, we could do nothing but feel proud of her as she sits at her piano to give New Yorkers a one woman concert in Carnegie Hall.

Songwriter/Singer CAROLE KING  was born CAROL JOAN  KLEIN, in Manhattan, New York.  Her mother was a Teacher, her father a firefighter for New York City Fire Department. She grew up in Brooklyn and learned to play the piano at the age of 4.  While at James Madison High School, in l950, she changed her last name from CAROL, to CAROLE, and from  KLEIN to KING, formed a band called the Co-Sines and made a  demo records with her friend Paul Simon. Her first official recording was “The Right Girl” released by ABC-Paramount in l958, which she wrote and sang to an arrangement by Don Costa.

During the sixties, with GOFFIN writing the lyrics, they wrote a string of classic songs for a variety of artists as one of the songwriting team for DON KIRSHNER’s Dimension Records. One of them  “The Loco-motion for their baby sitter,   

In the year 2000, KING, the writer of Pop, soft rock, folk rock, and blue eyed soul, was called  “The most successful female songwriter” of l955-l999, by music researcher JOEL WHITBURN,  because she had made 25 solo albums. As of today, she has won four Grammy Awards and has been inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for her song writing. She is the recipient of the 2013 Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song, and last year was a Kennedy Center Honoree.

In reviewing the show, that received a long standing ovation on it Opening Night, we can add that  “BEAUTIFUL the CAROL KING MUSICAL” lives up to its title. It is beautiful.

BEAUTIFUL THE CAROLE KING MUSICAL will play at the Orpheum Theatre until September 18th. For tickets call 888-746-1799 or visit shnsf.com