Girls don’t write music, they teach it!
~ Genie Klein advising her daughter Carole to give up a career in music
Carole King (Abby Mueller) knew at age 16 she had a place in music. The future inductee of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, knew her talent would get her far. Originally, from Manhattan, her family moved to Brooklyn when she was four and learned to play the piano. By the time she reached high school, she had a band, adds the letter “E” to Carol and changed her last name from Klein to King. She rushed home one day and tells her mother Genie (wonderfully played by Suzanne Grodner) that she plans to sell her song “It Might As Well Rain Until September” to record producer Don Kirshner (Curt Bouril). Genie is not impressed. She reminds Carol that she’s going to college to study education and become a teacher.
Carole feigns listening and continues to talk about her new song. She and BFF Betty (Sarah Bockel), who reminds everyone that Carol skipped two grades, go directly to Kirshner’s office and give an impromptu audition. The producer, known as the man with the golden ear, immediately likes the song and hires Carole. She quickly collaborates with lyricist Gerry Goffin (Liam Tobin) and its magic at first sight. Their chemistry goes beyond making music. Soon Carole is pregnant and the two marry and live in the suburbs with their two daughters.
Along the way, they meet fellow lyricists Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil (Ben Fankhauser and Becky Gulsvig) and embroil in a healthy completion on who reaches number one in the charts first. In the beginning, Klein and Goffin make the cut with early success like “Will You Love Me Tomorrow” for The Shirelles in 1960, “Some Kind of Wonderful” for The Drifters in 1961, and “The Loco-Motion” by their former baby sitter Little Eva (Ashley Blanchet)in 1962. “The first song I like is a hit,” Kirshner would say to the competing teams. The growing bond between the couples lead up to multiple hits for both sides and an enduring friendship. However successful Carole and Gerry were, there were cracks in the marriage. Carole easily slid into her role as a homemaker but Gerry became restless and needed to go out constantly. Gerry’s inability to stay faithful affected his writing abilities. Later, he suffered a nervous breakdown and completely withdrew. Carole stayed with him until their divorce in 1968.
She found success as both a singer and songwriter when she took her daughters to live in Los Angeles, Laurel Canyon to be exact. The future four-time Grammy winner, created a sensational album in 1971 with Tapestry, which stayed at number one for 15 weeks and stayed on the charts for six years. The album produced hit singles such as “You’ve Got A Friend,” (“You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman,” and “I Feel the Earth Move.”
Abby Mueller is sensational as Carole King. From teen girl to adult woman, she graces through each phase of her musical chapter that made her both a star and an idol. Mueller’s self-deprecating humor makes the audience fall more in love with the talented icon. Her voice and Carole King-esque mannerisms brought out the style and charm of this fabulous singer. Grodner does an excellent job as the over-protective but loving mother who takes credit for aiding her daughter in her musical career. Even though she would have preferred her talented daughter to become a teacher, I’m guessing that a look at Carole’s first royalty check quickly changed her mind. A whole-hearted salute goes to Ashley Blanchet who played babysitter turned mega star Little Eva. Her cute and bubbly personality touched people both on stage and in the audience as she worked her charismatic magic. She is is golden.
A terrific show with a marvelous cast makes Beautiful a show not to be missed. The music and the story behind it will make it a timeless classic.
Beautiful: The Carole King Musical runs until Sunday, July 17th. The show is dark on Mondays, plays Tuesday through Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday, July 9th at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m., Sunday, July 12th at 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. and Sunday 17th at 1 p.m. playing at the Hollywood Pantages Theatre located at 6233 Hollywood Blvd., in Los Angeles. For ticket information,call 323-468-1770.