Beautiful story…beautiful music…BEAUTIFUL


Photo courtesy of Hennepin Theatre Trust

Abby Mueller is beautiful as Carole King in the Tony and Grammy-Award winning musical now showing at The Orpheum as part of the Hennepin Theatre Trust’s Broadway Tour season.

Jolie Olson, Freelance Writer

 Beautiful: The Carole King Musical  is a powerful example of storytelling at its finest. Some musicals try to cover up their flaws with expensive effects and too much makeup,  but this musical is naturally beautiful and has great bone structure.  Told with humor and feeling, this show packs in great characters, memorable music, and a plot that keeps attention from beginning to end.

Carole King’s life story provides the structure of this unforgettable plot. As a girl, she had a dream to be a songwriter, even though her mother wanted her to do the practical thing and become a teacher. At 16, she sold her first song to Don Kirshner’s Aldon Music and met her future husband and songwriting partner, Gerry Goffin. In their rise to success, they meet their best friends and greatest competitors,  Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil.  Publicly, they experience hit after hit on the Billboard charts while the real drama unfolds in their private lives.

Another mark of beauty comes from a cohesive cast where actors play their parts with full commitment. From each ensemble member to Carole King (Abby Mueller) these actors are convincing human beings rather than plastic mannequins. Gerry Goffin (Liam Tobin) went from a sweet, kind, man to an aggressive, awful, monster within seconds. Barry Mann (Ben Fankhauser) was dramatic without being over-the-top and Cynthia Weil (Becky Gulsvig) is the gutsiest best friend a girl could ask for.

Woven throughout the storyline are the hit songs that “became a soundtrack for a generation.”   Each song is perfectly placed to add depth and meaning to the story.  From a girl with a dream to a number one songwriter, Carole King understood how music can transport a person to a better place.  A good example comes with Gerry and Carole’s first number one hit, “Will You Still Love me Tomorrow”.  It is a joyous song when we first hear it sung on air by The Shirelles, but when Carole finds out Gerry is having an affair, her acapella version, sitting alone at her piano, is enough to make the toughest man cry.

Throughout her life, Carole King never recognized herself as the gift that she was as an individual artist. Through her music and through the challenges she faced, she found her voice. Her life story provides the perfect structure, the characters add color, and the music is the accessory that ties it all together.  This musical tells her compelling story and strips away the facade of fame to reveal a truly beautiful woman.

*Note: Jolie Olson is a writer with the Hennepin Theatre Trust’s Critical Review program

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