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“Beautiful” at DPAC Chronicles Carole King’s Metamorphosis from Teenaged Songwriter to Star

"Beautiful: The Carole King Musical," now playing at DPAC, chronicles King's metamorphosis from teenaged songwriter to singer (photo by Joan Marcus)

“Beautiful: The Carole King Musical,” now playing at DPAC, chronicles King’s metamorphosis from teenaged songwriter to singer (photo by Joan Marcus)

The Durham Performing Arts Center will be the second stop on the 2015-16 North American Tour of the new jukebox musical Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, with Broadway director Marc Bruni, choreographer Josh Prince, and musical director and supervisor Jason Howland reprising their roles for the touring production. The tour will make beautiful music (pun intended) in DPAC‘s 2,700 seat-state-of-the-art theater, in the Bull City’s American Tobacco Historic District, on Sept. 23-28 and Sept. 30-Oct. 4.

The tour stars Abby Mueller as songwriter and singer Carole King and Liam Tobin as her husband and songwriting partner Gerry Goffin, and Ben Fankhauser and Becky Gulsvig as Carole and Gerry’s best friends, the husband-and-wife songwriting duo of Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil. The tour also stars Suzanne Grodner as Carole’s mother, Genie Klein, and Curt Bouril as record company excutive and music publisher Donnie Kirshner, a.k.a. “The Man With the Golden Ear.” (Abby Mueller is the sister of Jessie Mueller, who won the 2014 Tony Award® for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical and the 2014 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Actress in a Musical for portraying singer-songwriter Carole King in the still-running Broadway production of Beautiful, which debuted on Jan. 12, 2014 at the Stephen Sondheim Theatre and has totaled more than 700 performance to date.)

Carole King’s fans will love Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, claimed Newsday, Steve Park in his review of the Broadway production. He added, “With Marc Bruni’s crisp direction and Josh Prince’s precision choreography, the hits segue seamlessly on Derek McLane’s industrial grid set — from drab office to glittery concert stage — with the efficiency of a snappy line (libretto by Douglas McGrath) as we encounter live replicas of The Drifters, Shirelles, Righteous Brothers and [Belhaven, NC-born] Little Eva.”

In his review of the original Broadway production of Beautiful for Entertainment Weekly, Thom Geier gave the show B+ and wrote, “Watching Beautiful, the new jukebox musical celebrating the remarkable life and work of Carole King, you may not feel the earth move under your feet. But the new Broadway show emerges as a slick and joyous celebration of female empowerment. Like Jersey Boys, Beautiful features a smart, well-crafted, and often funny book … that cleverly threads together a memorable catalog of early rock hits such as ‘Some Kind of Wonderful’ and ‘Take Good Care of My Baby.’ It also boasts a winning central performance by Jessie Mueller as the shy Jewish girl from Brooklyn who only gradually comes into her own as a headlining voice of a generation.”

Carole King (center) and her husband, Gerry Goffin, competed fiercely against other Brill Building songwriting teams (photo by Joan Marcus)

Carole King (center) and her husband, Gerry Goffin, competed fiercely against other Brill Building songwriting teams (photo by Joan Marcus)

In addition to playwright Douglas McGrath, director Marc Bruni, choreographer Josh Prince, musical director and supervisor Jason Howland, and scenic designer Derek McLane, the show’s Broadway and tour creative team includes lighting designer Peter Kaczrowski, costume designer Alejo Vietti, hair-and-wig designer Charles G. LaPointe, makeup designer Joe Dulude II, sound designer Brian Ronan, and production manager Juniper Street Productions. (Brian Ronan’s sound design won the 2014 Tony Award for Best Sound Design of a Musical and the 2014 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Sound Design in a Musical)

“I don’t think that there are any recognizable changes [between the Broadway production and the tour],” says 26-year-old Ben Fankhauser. “Our set is a little bit different, because it has to come apart and be put together again [every two weeks or so].”

Fankhauser says there have been a few minor tweaks in the show’s direction and choreography. “These changes are tailored to this set and the sort of DNA that these particular actors bring to the table,” he says, but adds that “There are no new songs or scenes or anything like that.”

A native of Zurich, Switzerland who grew up in Cleveland, OH, Ben Fankhauser earned his BFA degree in musical theater from Ithaca College in Ithaca, NY, in 2011. But even before college graduation, he took a year off to play Ernst in the First National Tour of Spring Awakening. He made his Broadway debut on March 29, 2012, playing Davey in the original cast of Newsies the Musical.

The Shirelles were one of the many beneficies of Carole King's songwriting prowess (photo by Joan Marcus)

The Shirelles were one of the many beneficies of Carole King’s songwriting prowess (photo by Joan Marcus)

Fankhauser loves playing hypochondriacal songwriter Barry Mann in Beautiful. “He is hilarious,” Fankhauser says. “He’s always trying to figure out what’s wrong with things…. He’s a neurotic worrier; but at the same time, he’s a man’s man, and he’s got a big heart…. It’s a real treat to play comedy as well as drama in the same role.”

Fankhauser adds, “I like to describe Barry as a man who has a ton of moxie, but no filter…. He’s Carole King and Gerry Goffin’s main competitor [among the famous Brill Building’s rival songsmiths], but he’s also their best friend…. His main love interest is Cynthia Weil, and the audience gets to watch their romantic relationship and their songwriting partnership bloom in the show.

Ben Fankhauser has visited the Triangle on several occasions. Most recently, he played Henry in the North Carolina Theatre‘s May 1-10 production of Next to Normal

Fankhauser can’t remember when he was bitten by the theater bug, but confesses that he’s never wanted to do anything else with his life. Starting in a theater day camp at age 10 or 11, Fankhauser has steadily progressed from acting in high school and collegiate theatrical productions to performing in national tours and on Broadway.

“I loved the collaboration and the camaraderie,” says Ben Fankhauser. “I love telling stories, and especially stories that give people an opportunity to be healed.”

He adds, “Beautiful is different from the usual type of jukebox musicals…. It’s much more like a play with music ….. I have known Carole King songs my whole life…. When you hear this music, it evokes a sense of nostalgia and triggers memories from when you first heard them.”

Carole King (center) and her husband, Gerry Goffin, were songwriting dynamos (photo by Joan Marcus)

Carole King (center) and her husband, Gerry Goffin, were songwriting dynamos (photo by Joan Marcus)

SECOND OPINION: Sept. 18th Durham, NC Herald-Sun preview by Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan: http://www.heraldsun.com/lifestyles/playing-carole-king-abby-mueller-to-star-in-broadway-tour/article_439636dc-5cbb-11e5-9132-134251ff04ad.html (Note: You must subscribe to read this article); Sept. 19th Raleigh, NC News & Observer preview by Roy C. Dicks: http://www.newsobserver.com/entertainment/arts-culture/article35722368.html; and Sept. 14th Raleigh, NC BroadwayWorld.com Raleigh interview with Liam Tobin, conducted by Jeffrey Care: http://www.broadwayworld.com/raleigh/article/BWW-TV-Liam-Tobin-of-BEAUTIFUL-THE-CAROLE-KING-MUSICAL-National-Tour-20150914.

The Durham Performing Arts Center presents BEAUTIFUL: THE CAROLE KING STORY at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 23, 2 and 7:30 p.m. Sept. 24, 8 p.m. Sept. 25, 2 and 8 p.m. Sept. 26, 1:30 and 6:30 p.m. Sept. 27, 7:30 p.m. Sept. 29-Oct. 1, 8 p.m. Oct. 2, 2 and 8 p.m. Oct. 3, 1:30 and 6:30 p.m. Oct. 4 at 123 Vivian Street, Durham, North Carolina 27701, in the American Tobacco Historic District.

TICKETS: $40.90-$185.22, including fees. (For Special Offers, click here.)

BOX OFFICE:

DPAC Box Office: 919-680-2787 or http://www.dpacnc.com/events-tickets/where-to-buy.

Ticketmaster: 800-982-2787 or http://www.ticketmaster.com/venueartist/115558/2117653.

GROUP RATES (15 + tickets): 919-281-0587, groups@DPACnc.com, or http://www.dpacnc.com/events-tickets/group-services.

SHOW: http://www.dpacnc.com/events/detail/beautiful and https://www.facebook.com/events/626664987465078/.

AUDIO AND VIDEO PREVIEWS: http://beautifulonbroadway.com/sights-sounds/#.

THE TOUR: http://beautifulonbroadway.com/tour/.

TOUR CAST: http://beautifulonbroadway.com/about/cast-creative/#tour.

CREATIVE TEAM: http://beautifulonbroadway.com/about/cast-creative/#creative.

NOTE: Arts Access, Inc. of Raleigh will audio-describe the 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 24th, performance.

OTHER LINKS:

Carole King (songwriter and singer): http://www.caroleking.com/ (official website), http://www.ibdb.com/person.php?id=84001 (Internet Broadway Database), http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0005580/ (Internet Movie Database), https://www.facebook.com/CaroleKing (Facebook page), https://twitter.com/carole_king (Twitter page), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carole_King (Wikipedia).

Beautiful: The Carole King Musical (2013 San Francisco, 2014 Broadway, and 2015 West End musical): http://beautifulonbroadway.com/ (official Broadway website), http://beautifulmusical.co.uk/ (official West End website), http://www.ibdb.com/production.php?id=495178 (Internet Broadway Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beautiful:_The_Carole_King_Musical (Wikipedia).

Douglas McGrath (book): http://www.ibdb.com/person.php?id=495005 (Internet Broadway Database), https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Douglas_McGrath (Wikipedia).

Ben Fankhauser (actor): http://ibdb.com/person.php?id=491586 (Internet Broadway Database), http://www.imdb.com/name/nm5025768/ (Internet Movie Database), https://www.facebook.com/ben.fankhauser.3 (Facebook page), https://twitter.com/PlznFankU (Twitter page), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ben_Fankhauser (Wikipedia).

EDITOR’S NOTE:

Robert W. McDowell has written articles for The News & Observer, The Raleigh Times, Spectator Magazine, CVNC, and Triangle Arts and Entertainment, all based in Raleigh. He edits and publishes two FREE weekly e-mail newsletters. Triangle Review provides comprehensive, in-depth coverage of local performing-arts events. (Start your FREE subscription by e-mailing robertm748@aol.com and typing SUBSCRIBE TR in the Subject: line.) McDowell also maintains a FREE list of movie sneak previews. (To subscribe, e-mail robertm748@aol.com and type SUBSCRIBE FFL FREE in the Subject: line.)

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