Seattle's Child

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Village Theatre presents “The Carole King Musical”

Familiar songs will have you dancing in your seat

Start the new year off right with the first must-see show of 2024. The second production in Village Theatre’s season, “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical” won two Tony Awards in 2014 and one Grammy the following year. It bursts into the Seattle market with toe-tapping hits and features an incredible true story that will engage and delight young adult viewers and beyond.

The jukebox musical includes rotating slides of some of the era’s biggest hits, many of which were written by King: “Will You Love Me Tomorrow”, “One Fine Day”, “So Far Away” and “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” to name a few. But the story of her career, her marriage, her highs, and her lows will make you feel like “You’ve Got a Friend” in Carole, indeed.

Some Kind of Wonderful”

Following its nearly two-month run in Issaquah, “Beautiful” takes the stage through early February at Everett’s Performing Arts Center, a medium-sized venue with 505 seats whose scale is ideal for a show like this. Small enough to encourage intimacy between those on stage and the audience, though still large enough to allow for ample stage production and set design, the venue showcases the talent of the cast, the incredible music and the engaging book by Douglas McGrath.

Set between 1958 and 1971, “Beautiful” stars Sarah Rose Davis in the titular role of Carole Klein who took the professional surname of King, a teenager living in Brooklyn with a dream of writing songs. Her mother Genie (Angela DiMarco) encourages her to pursue teaching, but ironically it is at Queens College where she meets charming lyricist Gerry Goffin (Jason Kappus). Their dynamic partnership leads to a hit-writing residency under big-wig music producer Don Kirshner (Avery Clark) through his publishing company Aldon Music.

If you don’t know much about Carole King, “Beautiful” will serve as a fruitful education filled with shocking revelations and newfound appreciation for her journey. King and Goffin write numerous hits performed by other artists, namely groups like The Drifters and The Shirelles: “Some Kind of Wonderful”, “Up on the Roof”, “The Loco-Motion” and “One Fine Day”. Kirshner pitted his composers against one another, which is how King and Goffin became best friends and frequent competitors with fellow song-writing duo and collaborators-turned-romantic-partners Cynthia Weil (Krystle Armstrong-Alan) and Barry Mann (Adam Marino).

I Feel the Earth Move” under my seat

As King and Goffin hit their stride professionally, the stress of a cut-throat career and two children take their toll. Goffin begins down a path of substance abuse that is vaguely touched upon in the production. There is only light speculation about his changed and often erratic behavior. No explicit drug use is shown, and the show never lingers on the topic for more than a passing comment.

As the story enters its second act, gone is the carefree excitement of collaboration and creative output. The times are slowly changing as well. The costume design reflects that shift, moving away from the 50s prim dress code and onto the 60s where King and Weil are given assurances by the growing feminist movement to ditch the old and embrace their power with bold dresses and natural locks.

In particular, Goffin’s extramarital affairs are a main point of inflection for King, who, until this point, has been a steadfast wife and hardworking creative partner. As she finds her own voice away from her troubled husband, King’s artistry grows wings and allows her to fly off into her own solo career, culminating in her famous performance at Carnegie Hall in 1971.

Reasons to go see the “Carole King Musical”

The production never feels long or overwrought. Each of their major hits is given its own dance number, and scenes are craftily composed to run from one to the next without ever feeling disjointed. The ensemble characters who make up The Shirelles and The Drifters, in addition to any number of bit roles, do an incredible job of keeping the flow of the musical going, even when they bounce from character to character in mere seconds.

Undertaking a role based on a real person with a distinct voice and style would be daunting, but Davis is the heart of this production. She is aided by the talent of the rest of the foursome; Kappus, Armstrong-Alan and Marino round out the solid core of “Beautiful”, and their chemistry emanates off the stage.

Know before you go

Very young and early elementary school kids are unlikely to find much appeal in this production, and the long runtime is a deterrent unto itself. There is nothing scary or inappropriate – barring the aforementioned allusion to drug use and King’s pregnancy out of wedlock – but the story and the music would find greater appreciation by early teens and beyond.

“Beautiful: The Carole King Musical” will play at Everett’s Performing Arts Center from January 6 through February 4. The show runs for approximately two hours and 40 minutes, with one intermission.

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About the Author

Candice McMillan

Candice McMillan has been writing about film for more than 10 years. Since becoming a mom to her two daughters, she’s had to hang up her affinity for horror films, catering to the two smallest critics who prefer shows about rescue dogs and a family of pigs. Candice has degrees in journalism and film critical studies from USC, and her favorite children’s film is a toss-up between “Anastasia” and “A Goofy Movie.”