By Brian Scott Lipton
November 21st proved to be one fine day for the cast and creators of “Beautiful-The Carole King Musical” as they met the press just hours before their first Broadway preview at the Stephen Sondheim Theatre. The show, which officially opens on January 12th, transports audiences back to the 1950s, 1960s and early 1970s as it tells the story of the early years of songwriter Carole King (played by Tony Award Nominee Jessie Mueller), her husband and collaborator Gerry Goffin (portrayed by Jake Epstein), and their best friends and sometimes rivals Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil (played by Jarrod Spector and Anika Larsen).
Producer Paul Blake admitted that when he was first approached about the idea, he quickly discovered that the four tunesmiths – all still very much alive – had very different ideas about what the show should be. With the aid of playwright Douglas McGrath, who extensively interviewed the quartet, the project eventually came to life — with all of their blessings.
King has yet to see the show and Goffin only came to see it during its recent San Francisco tryout, but their daughter Sherry Goffin Konder has been actively involved, and is one of its biggest cheerleaders. Meanwhile, Mann and Weill told us how excited it has been to watch their story unfold onstage and hear such great hits as “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling” as well as lesser-known gems such as “Walking in the Rain.” Indeed, the latter song has become the favorite moment in the show for Larsen and Spector, two Broadway stars who perfectly embody the creative couple.
Naturally, the King-Goffin catalogue is heavily featured, from “One Fine Day” and “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow” to numerous songs from King’s legendary album “Tapestry.” Indeed, one bonus for New York audiences is that the creators have finally added her landmark hit “You’ve Got a Friend,” which was omitted from the San Francisco run.
In some ways, the show rests on Mueller’s shoulders. This multitalented actress was one of the first people considered for the role by director Marc Bruni, and she assures us that she considers this job a joy and an honor. Let’s just call it a beautiful match!
Photos/Video: Sandi Durell