Beautiful: The Carole King Musical isn't your typical jukebox musical. In fact, to call it a jukebox musical is kind of an insult. Although enjoyable, jukebox musicals tend to take a paint-by-number approach when it comes to putting on a show. The end product is a fun mixtape that any of us can make. Beautiful differentes itself with simplicity and a warm sense of groundedness. It's rich with the story and soulful songs of Carole King that have carefully stitched its way into the pop culture history.
If anything, Beautiful is a fine lesson in music history as much as it is a show that everyone will be buzzing about once takes the Broadway stage in January. But just remember: San Franciscans got to see it first.
Tony Award nominee and Grammy winner Jessie Mueller has the responsibility of stepping into the distinct voice of the iconic King (which she gives justice to), while Jake Epstein plays her writing partner/husband, Gerry Goffin. The rest of the cast is essentially a woven "tapestry" for music nerds. Anika Larsen and Jarrod Spector play King and Goffin's friendly rivals Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann during the hey days of Brill Building songwriting. Other historic figures in music pop up during the musical including the Righteous Brothers, Neil Sedaka, Don Kirshner, and a host of others.
The song selection, set design, and characters of this adds up to a musical that uses broadstrokes to paint the sunbeams and shadows that are a glimpse into King's life. To do such a thing is risky because of the sacred source material, but it's a risk that deserves applause.
To prep you for the musical, we have compiled a list of Carole King jams that you may want to add to your daily playlist.
"Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow" by The Shirelles: This was King and Goffin's first number one hit. The Shirelles put it on the map, but to hear King sing it is a totally different experience.
"Some Kind of Wonderful" by The Drifters: Another '60s classic written and composed by team Goffin/King...and another classic that King sings just as well.
"The Locomotion" by Little Eva: Yup. King and Goffin wrote this. And guess who sang it and made it famous? Their babysitter.
"Another Pleasant Valley Sunday" by The Monkees: This song was probably the best song ever created for a fictious TV band...and hearing King sing is just as good if not better.
"So Far Away" by Carole King: One of many songs from her best-selling album Tapestry that, despite the title, feels intimate and...huggable.
"It's Too Late" by Carole King: The placement of this song in the musical couldn't be anymore perfect considering the troublesome relationship she had with Goffin.
"I Feel the Earth Move" by Carole King: A little more jivin' than some of her other solo tunes, this single, along with "It's Too Late" hit number one on the Billboard 100 in 1971...and it was well-deserved.
"You've Got a Friend" by James Taylor: Mr. Taylor may be the one known for singing it, but King wrote this anthem of friendship that I sing to all of my friends on a daily basis.
"(You Make Me Feel) Like a Natural Woman" by Carole King: You are not a diva until you sing this song. That said, a law should be made stating that all female singers must get permission from King to sing this song before attempting to do so.
"Beautiful" by Carole King: This is the title of the musical. How could you not love it?
Beautiful: The Carole King Musical is playing at The Curran Theatre through October 20. Purchase your tickets at shnsf.com.