Theatre Review: BEAUTIFUL is ‘heartbreaking and yet powerful!’

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BEAUTIFUL: THE CAROLE KING MUSICAL is the classic story of a young woman going through the ups and downs of a relationship and ultimately discovering the confidence that she can be successful on her own terms. It should be no surprise to attendees that the music in this show is excellent. You will find yourself nodding your head and singing along to many of these great songs from an earlier era. I heard many comments during intermission saying “I didn’t know she wrote that!”

Star Abby Mueller (sister to Jessie Mueller who won the Tony for the role on Broadway) brings the
needed vulnerability to the early years of King’s at the beginning of her songwriting career, unsure of who she is and what she can do. There is a wobbly note to her singing that perfectly matches Carole’s insecurity in her own performing talents.

Upon meeting and quickly marrying her lyricist partner, Gerry Goffin – played by Liam Tobin – the two start churning out hit after well-known hit. A friendly competition with the songwriting duo of Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann provide the reason for many of the fantastic songs to be performed when they had no real bearing on the story line. No complaints though as the opening bars of each song played, you could hear the appreciative <em>ooohs</em> ripple across the opening night Winspear’s audience.

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Abby Mueller as Carole King in BEAUTIFUL: THE CAROLE KING MUSICAL

Transitions from the songwriting process around a stand-up piano to big show performances were seamless and made you feel like you were attending mini-concerts with The Drifters, The Shirelles, The Righteous Brothers and even Little Eva. The push-pull between home and career is apparent for King, and her quandary only grows upon the discovery of her husband’s cheating and their attempts to move on. No question this challenge is still relevant to today’s audiences, and cheers rang out when King decided enough was enough and it was time to forge ahead on her own.

Mueller’s voice rings out, effectively capturing both the past pain and newly realized confidence, while the beloved songs from King’s Tapestry album are written and recorded. This performance has become my new favorite rendition of “Natural Woman” – heartbreaking and yet powerful! If you are a fan of Carole King or not, BEAUTIFUL is a must-see show! You will leave “with a smile upon your face”.

BEAUTIFUL: THE CAROLE KING MUSICAL plays at the Winspear Opera House through Sunday, June 19th. Tickets still available.

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