Durham Performing Arts Center audiences loved Beautiful: The Carol King Musical — Broadway’s version of singer-songwriter Carole King’s life, which first played DPAC in 2015 — so much that last night it returned for an encore presentation — to the same enthusiastic response. With recognizable songs that span three decades, tender moments of love, and the unsinkable music that defines the legendary songs in King’s repertoire, there is lots to love in this Tony® and Grammy® award-winning musical.
Beautiful opened on Broadway in January 2014, and has since broken all office records at the Stephen Sondheim Theatre to become the highest-grossing production in the theater’s history. Since it began, the musical has brought the sounds of the groundbreaking singer/songwriter to millions of people all over the world.
The original cast recording of the show, which won the 2015 Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album, features music written not only by King and her husband and songwriting partner, Gerry Goffin, but also by their best friends and competition, the songwriting duo of Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann.
A native New Yorker, Carole King started writing and selling songs while she was still in high school, fighting the odds and succeeding in a business known for its mercurial peaks and flourishes. She had the perfect life, the perfect husband, and great success before she reached her twenties.
Writing for Don Kirshner, the “man with the golden ear,” she helped him establish his fabled hold on the music world throughout the Sixties and Seventies. With her husband, Gerry, King wrote music sung by girl bands such as The Shirelles, boy bands such as The Monkees, The Drifters, and even the world’s greatest diva, Aretha Franklin.
In a narrative spiked with songs so recognizable hat people in the audience sing-along, the musical requires its actors to both sing well and to play instruments like the iconic characters that they portray — and they do all that and then some.
Sarah Bockel, who played Carole during the First National Tour, returns to reprise the role. As understudy for the part on Broadway, Bockel has put in her time and is now enjoying her moment in the spotlight — deservedly so. She rocks the early 1960s songs such as “Take Good Care of My Baby” and “It Might as Well Rain Until September,” and also pulls out the big notes for King’s hits, “Will You Love Me Tomorrow” and “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman.” Bockel’s voice has the powerhouse quality that enables her to play her part both endearingly and with a palpable sadness that creates instant sympathy for the character.
Dylan S. Wallach, who is making his National Tour debut, plays King’s husband and the other half of her songwriting team, Gerry Goffin. An actor and writer, Wallach can also count powerhouse singer as one of his talents. His awkward, understandable, and oddly lovable take on Goffin reaches beyond the stage to create a character whose psychological issues ultimately break up his marriage to King.
James Clow, an award-winning Broadway veteran with a sweet sense of humor, plays Don Kirshner. Kirshner hired King and Goffin to produce music for his stable of early pop groups, such as The Shirelles, The Chiffons, The Drifters and, later, The Monkees and many others.
This story is as much about Carole King herself as it is about her friendship and competition with songwriters Barry Mann (played by Jacob Heimer) and Cynthia Weil (played by Alison Whitehurst). Both are talented singers and musicians themselves (Heimer plays a mean guitar!) and are well-suited to their roles. Heimer’s extensive experience includes Off-Broadway, Shakespeare, and TV. Weil traveled with the First National Tour, playing Marilyn, and has acted in Off-Broadway productions, as well.
Of the many singers/dancers who portray the original singers of King’s music, one in particular stood out: John Michael Dias, who plays both Neil Sedaka and one of The Righteous Brothers, is both a talented singer, as well as a comedian, and was a delight on stage.
Beautiful is everything Carole King’s songs espouse: a Tapestry of “Some Kind of Wonderful” songs that have the “Locomotion” to take it “Up On the Roof.” This jukebox musical, which features great music, fine acting, and a fast-paced look at three decades of Carole King’s music, will run at DPAC through Sunday, May 12th.
SECOND OPINION: May 8th Raleigh, NC Triangle Arts and Entertainment review by Susie Potter: http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/2019/05/loaded-with-legendary-music-and-lots-of-heart-dpacs-beautiful-the-carole-king-musical-is-a-cant-miss-hit/; May 7th Raleigh, NC WRAL.com preview by “Out and About” editor Kathy Hanrahan for “What’s on Tap”: https://www.wral.com/carole-king-s-career-explored-in-beautiful-at-dpac/18368803/; and May 5th Raleigh, NC BroadwayWorld.com Raleigh interview with actress Danielle Summons, conducted by Lauren Van Hemert: https://www.broadwayworld.com/raleigh/article/BWW-Interview-BEAUTIFULs-Danielle-Summons-Reflects-on-Family-Carol-King-and-Coming-Home-20190505.
The Durham Performing Arts Center presents BEAUTIFUL: THE CAROLE KING MUSICAL at 7:30 p.m. May 8 and 9, 8 p.m. May 10, 2 and 8 p.m. May 11, and 1 and 6:30 p.m. May 12 at 123 Vivian St., Durham, North Carolina 27701, in the American Tobacco Historic District.
TICKETS: $34.50 and up, plus taxes and fees. Click here to enter the digital lottery for $30 tickets.
DPAC Box Office: 919-680-ARTS (2787), firstname.lastname@example.org, or http://www.dpacnc.com/events-tickets/where-to-buy.
Ticketmaster: 800-982-2787 or https://www.ticketmaster.com/venueartist/369510/2117653.
GROUP RATES (12+ tickets): 919/281-0587, Groups@DPACnc.com, or http://www.dpacnc.com/events-tickets/group-services.
SHOW: https://www.dpacnc.com/events/detail/beautiful-1 and https://www.facebook.com/events/331469027421924/.
AUDIO AND VIDEO PREVIEWS: https://beautifulonbroadway.com/sights-sounds/.
DPAC NEWS RELEASES: https://www.dpacnc.com/news/detail/dpac-announces-digital-rush-lottery-for-beautiful and https://www.dpacnc.com/news/detail/beautiful-the-carole-king-musical-returns-to-dpac-may-7-12-2019.
THE TOUR: https://beautifulonbroadway.com/tour/ and https://www.ibdb.com/tour-production/beautiful-the-carole-king-musical–500924.
TOUR CAST: https://beautifulonbroadway.com/about/cast-creative/ (click NORTH AMERICAN TOUR).
TOUR CREATIVE TEAM: https://beautifulonbroadway.com/about/cast-creative/ (click NORTH AMERICAN TOUR).
PRESENTER/VENUE: http://www.dpacnc.com/, https://www.facebook.com/DPACNC, https://twitter.com/DPAC, and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Durham_Performing_Arts_Center.
DIRECTIONS: http://www.dpacnc.com/plan-your-visit/directions. PARKING: http://www.dpacnc.com/plan-your-visit/parking.
NOTE: There will be an open-captioned performance at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, May 9th; and Arts Access, Inc. of Raleigh will audio-describe the show’s 8 p.m. Saturday, May 11th, performance. Guests with a disabilities can find more information by clicking DPAC’s accessibility page.
Carole King (songwriter and singer): http://www.caroleking.com/ (official website), https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-cast-staff/carole-king-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://www.donkirshner.com/http://beautifulmusical.co.uk/ (official West End website), https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-show/beautiful-the-carole-king-musical-495177 (Internet Broadway Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beautiful:_The_Carole_King_Musical (Wikipedia).
Douglas McGrath (book): https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-cast-staff/douglas-mcgrath-495005 (Internet Broadway Database), https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0569790/ (Internet Movie Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Douglas_McGrath (Wikipedia).
Dawn Reno Langley is the award-winning author of The Mourning Parade, as well as other novels, children’s books, nonfiction books, essays, short stories, poems, and articles. She is the creator of The Writer’s Hand Journals and runs workshops on using journals in every walk of life. A Fulbright Scholar, she holds the MFA in Fiction from Vermont College of Fine Arts in Montpelier, VT, and the PhD in Interdisciplinary Studies from Union Institute and University. She lives in Durham with her dog, Izzy. To read all of Dawn Langley’s Triangle Review reviews online at Triangle Arts and Entertainment, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/author/dawn-reno-langle/.