Short and Sweet guest critic Susan DeBouver shares her perspective on Beautiful: The Carol King Musical with Diana Martinez of Broadway in Chicago
The opening night performance of Beautiful at the Oriental Theatre was full of heart, thanks to an honest and sincere performance by Abby Mueller as Carole King. Imagine how challenging it would it be to play a role that your sister originated and won the Tony for on Broadway? That's what she does in this production. Abby Mueller plays the part with a perfect, understated control that depicts a singer-songwriter who started her career more comfortable behind the scenes than on stage. King and her college sweetheart develop a relationship that is bound by their song-writing power and is challenged by her husband's depression and infidelity.
Ben Fankhauser and Becky Gulsvig play their best friends, Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil. This dynamic, funny and powerful songwriting couple is challenged only by their fear of commitment to each other. They are the perfect sidekick comedy duo and inject hysterical laugh-out-loud comedy and energy into every scene they step in.
The show features not only King's music, but also those of Weil and Mann "Who Put the Bop", "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling". This jukebox musical offers over 24 favorite songs from the 50's and 60's and depicts the life and challenges faced by songwriters of the era.
My guest audience critic : of Schaumburg wrote such a great review that sums up the opening night so I wanted to share it in its entirety.
Last night's performance of Beautiful -- The Carole King Musical was just that (Beautiful) from start to finish. The opening and closing scenes with Abby Mueller (Carole King) sitting at the piano anchored this performance front and back. The body of this production itself was so well put together on every level from settings, to song selections, length of scenes, story lines, perfectly timed humor, talent and timelines. It showcased the shiny suits and smooth choreographed back-up singer groups of the late 50s and 60s that made you smile, sway and warmed your heart like a fond childhood memory.
This musical was one of the best I've ever seen. The talent on that stage was in comparison to the talent that Carole King holds in and of herself - perfectly congruent.
Although many of the words and music were performed by others and elevated into the Top-40, in my estimation, they couldn't quite capture the passion that came across when Carole sang the songs she herself created or wrote in unison with Gerry Goffin.
Seeing the show for the mere talent and entertainment factor would be enough. However, there's yet another hidden gift. The joy of seeing how her challenges catapulted her into her true calling: Singing her own songs. It's an example how believing in yourself and living one's true purpose blesses the world of the gifts that we are all better off for. Carole, where you lead, I will follow. You've got a friend.
This Tony Award-winning musical is in Chicago through February 21, 2016 at the Oriental Theatre in Chicago, The show runs about 2 hours and 30 minutes with an intermission and is suitable for ages 12 and up. It's a great family show, date night show or group outing. It's clever, touching and funny in all the right places.
On behalf of the Daily Herald, and Broadway in Chicago, I'm Diana Martinez and I look forward to seeing you at the theatre!