‘Beautiful: The Carole King Musical’ at Stephen Sondheim Theatre – Review

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A bit too much time is spent on another pair of songwriters Barry Mann (played by understudy Kevin Duda the night we were there) and Cynthia Weil (Anika Larsen).  The two couples become friends but that aspect of the relationship begins to resemble a television situation comedy (think the Ricardos and the Mertzes if Fred had been as much of a hypochondriac as Barry and much of the dialog is on a similar and somewhat mundane level), almost to the point of distraction.

However, none of this matters, as the audience is there for the great music and choreography, and the cast does not disappoint.  Whether its hits for artists such as the Monkees, the Shirelles, the Drifters, the Righteous Brothers, Aretha Franklin, or even Little Eva (who in the show and in real life babysat for Carole and Gerry), the music just keeps coming, performed by ensemble members portraying those groups.

Unfortunately, some of the references will only make sense to AARP card-toting audience members, such as saying “Come on, Little Eva, think!” as Gerry wonders out loud as to who should sing a new song (the Locomotion) he had written.

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Add the eye-popping, two-level set and decade-appropriate costumes that range from flashy (for the performing groups) and plain (Carole’s mother’s housedress and her decidedly unfashionable school attire), and it’s practically a given that everyone will leave the show humming something from the Carole King catalog.

“Beautiful: the Carole King Story” takes us along singer/songwriter’s bumpy road to stardom and Mueller delivers a poignant performance as King.  As she told us after the show, she truly enjoys the role.  “I’m so square,” she says midway in the show, so “normal.”  “Who wants to hear a normal person sing?”  Many do, it turns out, both once the real Carole King began her solo career and in the beautiful world of the Stephen Sondheim Theatre.

(Photos: Accura Media Group)

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