Thursday, November 24, 2016

reviews - BEAUTIFUL: THE CAROLE KING MUSICAL - National Tour: ASU Gammage

Julia Knitel
photo: Joan Marcus
highlights from local critics reviews - (click link at bottom of each review to read complete review)

Click here for more information on this production that runs through November 27th.

"There’s something unexpected that might occur while watching the first half of the hit Broadway jukebox musical, Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, now playing at ASU Gammage in Tempe until Sunday, November 27. It’s not discovering the things you didn’t know about the career or the personal life of singer/songwriter Carole King. It’s remembering the things you did know, but had forgotten.... when hearing the songs in Beautiful. ...unless you’re a pop music trivia enthusiast ...what may not be quite so obvious is realizing the name of the composers behind those songs. It was Carole King with her lyricist partner and husband Gerry Goffin....The first half of the show charts Carole’s song writing career from the early days when, against her mother’s wishes, the young girl headed into Manhattan in the hope of impressing music publisher Donnie Kershner ...The show will eventually circle back to 1971 at Carnegie Hall as it begun and end with Carole at the piano, but in-between, we’ll learn of her stormy relationship with Gerry Goffin (Liam Tobin), how they met at Queens College, and the competitive musical rivalry between Goffin and King and Cynthia Weil (Erika Olson) and Barry Mann (Ben Frankhauser). ..In terms of telling Carole’s full story, the show is heavily fragmented, concentrating more on the songs and whatever big production number is coming next. ..The show is also constantly amusing. ...Beautiful: The Carole King Story is a breathless, jukebox musical thrill ride of a remarkable woman that tells of two careers; one as a songwriter ...and the other as a singer/songwriter whose breakthrough album Tapestry changed everything ..." -David Appleford, Valley Screen and Stage (click here to read the complete review)

"When most people hear the name Carole King they immediately think of her hugely successful 1971 album "Tapestry" which stayed on the Billboard chart for six years, sold millions of copies, and won four Grammy awards. But before she achieved that success, King and her partner Gerry Goffin wrote dozens of hugely popular pop songs for other artists. They also were married, though the marriage was problematic. While Beautiful: The Carole King Musical focuses on the rise to fame of King as a singer-songwriter, it also follows the ups and downs in her relationship with Goffin as well as the competitive friendship they had with fellow songwriters Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann and the vast number of hit songs this quartet wrote. The stellar touring production of the smash Broadway show, in Tempe for a week long run, is led by a sensational Julia Knitel as King. Bookwriter Douglas McGrath crafted an engaging script which is framed by King's 1971 Carnegie Hall concert in support of "Tapestry," ..We then go back in time to 1958 Brooklyn where a 16-year-old Carol Klein is a budding songwriter about to head into the music publishing world located in New York City's Times Square to hopefully sell her first song. ...after a chance meeting with writer Gerry Goffin at the college they both attended and interest from music publisher Donnie Kirshner, the duo began their decade long journey of writing dozens of hit songs. Their union produced two daughters but also heartache for Carole, due to Gerry's philandering, drug use, and mental illness. ...boy are there plenty of hit songs in this show. "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow," "On Broadway," "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling," "Up on the Roof," "Take Good Care of My Baby" and "Some Kind of Wonderful" are just a few in this hit parade of familiar tunes, in addition to the many songs we hear from "Tapestry." The cast for this national tour are excellent. Julia Knitel understudied the role of King on Broadway and she is exceptional in portraying not only the various ages of King, but also the wide range of emotions she feels. ..As Gerry Goffin, Liam Tobin has to play both the man that King falls in love with as well as the person who treats her badly. Tobin manages to navigate his way through these requirements with ease in this well shaded portrayal of a man who has many demons in his life. Erika Olson and Ben Frankhauser form a dynamic couple as Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann, with Olson's spunky portrayal and direct, no nonsense delivery of her lines in nice counterpoint to Frankhauser's excellent comical approach to the neurotic Mann. ....Director Marc Bruni and choreographer Josh Prince provide seamless and fluid transitions between the many scenes and locations of the show. ...Beautiful: The Carole King Musical is a feel good show with a firm emotional center that offers a wide range of familiar songs framed by the moving story of a woman finding her voice and place in life." -Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)

COMING SOON --Chris Curcio, KBAQ (click here to read the complete review)

"...“Beautiful — The Carole King Musical”, both as drama and as a thrilling concert experience. ...isn’t a great work of art so much as crisp exhibition of craft. Book writer Douglas McGrath is admirably efficient in tracing the arc of King’s career from a shy, bookish 16-year-old to an almost-confident star in her own right performing at Carnegie Hall....While “Beautiful” certainly plays to audience nostalgia, it’s not all fluff. There’s a telling contrast between the slick performances  by the faux ’60s stars and those that take place inside the offices of 1650 Broadway, where the songwriters test out their material. ...And of course that’s a huge part of the power of “Tapestry,” which paired King’s new “singer-songwriter” works with her own versions of songs such as the Shirelles hit “Will You Love Me Tomorrow.” As good as Tobin is as a singer...his angst and anger are a bit overacted, but that’s one of only a few quibbles to be had with an excellent touring cast that includes Erika Olson as a spunky Weil and Ben Frankhauser as an amusingly neurotic Mann. And (Julia) Knitel, a rising star at 23, shines not only as a singer but in a nuanced portrayal of a precocious youth who always feels like she’s just a little bit out of her depth. As a concert performance, “Beautiful” doesn’t quite capture the sincerity and fragility of King’s own performances. But as a tribute the artist’s talent and pluck, it earns its title. " Kerry Lengel, Arizona Republic (click here to read the complete review)

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