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BEAUTIFUL: The Carole King Musical Medaille College/MusicalFare Theatre
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Feb 22, 2024, 16:02
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Through March 24
BEAUTIFUL: The Carole King Musical Daemen College/MusicalFare Theatre

By Augustine Warner

As soon as you finish reading this review, get your tickets to MusicalFare’s “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical.”
It’s that good.
Don’t think: “I’ve already seen this show.”
No, what you may have seen is “Tapestry,” a King jukebox musical.
“Beautiful” is more of a biopic about the song writer and her tangled early life.
Early?
Yes, she sold her first song in the music industry at the age of 16.
That’s the same year she met fellow student Gerry Goffin and future writing collaborator.
It had its moments as a good marriage and a lot of bad moments.
The Douglas McGrath script is somewhat old-fashioned, a woman who wants to stand by her man while working hard as a songwriter and raising a kid, not a usual combination in 1958.
Mom Genie (Debbie Pappas Sham) is dealing with a husband who has just left for the other woman and a daughter who wants to be a songwriter, Carole (Maria Pedro).
Carole does agree that if her dreams of success don’t work out, she will finish college and teach music.
The dreams do work out when music exec Don Kirshner (John Kaczorowski) starts buying her work, starting with “It Might as Well Rain Until September.”
That’s after “1650 Medley,” a production number of all the music being rehearsed through Kirshner’s warren of offices in 1650 Broadway in Manhattan.
At Queens College, King and Goffin (Sean Ryan) meet and fall in lust, professionally and personally.
They turn into a hit music machine with big name acts like The Drifters and the Shirelles.
In Kirshner’s offices, they also meet up with Cynthia Weil (Gretchen Didio) and Barry Mann (Josh Wilde) and an intense rivalry is born.
Carole and Gerry get pregnant and marry and Cynthia and Barry stay together and refuse to marry (for a long time).
All the way through this, we get a catalog of the music they are putting out on vinyl and in broadcast from the two teams, for Black and White performers and audiences, “Will You Love Me Tomorrow,” “On Broadway,” “One Fine Day,” “The Locomotion.”
King begins to understand how disturbed her husband is when he explains the origin of one of their biggest hits, “Up on The Roof,” in his own disturbed family and his attempt to escape.
He starts escaping to other women’s beds and King can’t quite take the big step and dump him, particularly when there is a second child.
In the end, she dumps him and proves she can write and perform on her own.
Cynthia and Barry decide it’s time to get married and King decides to pull up her roots and head for California’s epicenter of the arts in LA’s Laurel Canyon.
She also put out her album, “Tapestry,” one of the all-time best-selling discs, featuring “(You Make Me Feel like) A Natural Woman.”
The show is suffused with music, showing how good the four central characters were, writing for their times.
The packed house was filled with people like me who heard most of these songs in our youth.
Director Randall Kraer has a large, strong cast to work with, many new to the local stage.
Clearly, the core is Pedro, Ryan, Didio, Wilde and Kaczorowski.
It’s all a mix of large ensemble numbers, like “1650 Medley,” “Chains” and King and “I Feel the Earth Move.”
The core of these production numbers is the cast members who make up The Drifters (David P. Eve, Derrian Brown, El Tyner and Jake Hayes) and The Shirelles (Lily Jones, Janaé Leonard, Timiyah Love and Ember Tate) and their mammoth hits.
Dyan Burlingame kicked in an effective and interesting set, particularly for choreographer Robin Barker to show off her strong dancers.
The center of "Beautiful: The Carole King Musical" is McGrath mixing great music and fascinating private lives of the central characters into a wonderful show.
That’s why you should get your tickets, even with all of the other shows opening right now.

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