Ooh and Ahh to the Music of Carole King at Broward Center
By Skip Sheffield
Carole King is an American success story. Her music is the soundtrack of our lives.
King’s accomplishments are celebrated in “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical,” running through May 22 at Broward Center for the Arts.
The show begins with Carole King (Abby Mueller) alone at a grand piano accompanying herself on “So Far Away.” This is from King’s breakthrough solo album “Tapestry” in 1971, which won many awards and established King as a musical star- the best female musician of her generation.
“Beautiful” is not just a “juke box musical.” Playwright Douglas McGrath has dramatized King’s rise from age 16 in Brooklyn when she was still Carole Klein, and talked her way into the fabled Brill Building near Times Square and sold a song to producer Don Kirschner (Curt Bouril).
That song was “It Might as Well Rain Until September.” The song became a hit for Bobby Vee in 1962. Don Kirschner ran a stable of songwriters at the Brill Building who churned out hits for a variety of artists of all types. One of those writers was Neil Sedaka (John Michael Dias), who sings a snippet of one of his early hits, “Oh Carol.”
Once joining the hard-working stable of writers, Carole became enchanted with lyricist Gerry Goffin (Liam Tobin), who became her songwriting partner and eventually her husband.
King and Goffin became best friends with another songwriting duo; Barry Mann (Ben Frankhauser) and Cynthia Weil (Becky Gulsvig). The couples became friendly rivals. The romances between both couples are contrasted for dramatic effect. Carole King and Gerry Goffin’s was rocky. King became pregnant very early and Goffin became restless and dissatisfied. Feisty Cynthia Weil did not want to get married, but eventually she succumbed to the dubious charms of neurotic, hypochondriac Barry Mann, played for comic relief by Ben Frankhauser.
Above all it is the songs. The first “ahh” moment comes with “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow,” written under a 24-hour deadline for The Shirelles. If you were alive in the 1960s and 1970s, you will know all the songs. They will live on for future generations.
All the singers are strong; particularly Abby Mueller, and the ensemble harmonizing is wonderful, backed by a crack pit orchestra. “Beautiful” is big, with gorgeous costumes and sets and a wonderful communal good feeling. If you need a lift, this show’s for you.
Tickets start at $35. Call 954-462-0222 or go to www.browardcenter.org.