BEAUTIFUL- The Carole King Musical returns to Philadelphia from February 22nd and 27th. The musical tells the true story of King’s rise to stardom as well as her hit songwriting team with husband Gerry Goffin and friends Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann. I spoke with stage actor and musician James D. Gish who returns as Gerry Goffin. He tells me some of his favorite hits co-written by Goffin, what he loves about the show and why he thinks Philly audiences are excited to see it for the third time here at the Kimmel Cultural Campus!
Q: You discovered your passion for music and performing while growing up in Arizona. What specifically did it for you?
A: My high school in Bullhead City produced The Phantom of the Opera my senior year, and I got to play the Phantom. At the same time, an actor who played Phantom on Broadway, Franc D’Ambrosio, gave a concert at my school and held a free master class with me and some other cast members. He urged me to pursue work in this industry, and I knew from then on that I had to give it a whirl. I’ve been exceedingly fortunate to have been able to land the jobs I have!
Q: Tell us a bit about your character Gerry Goffin in Beautiful. How did you prepare for the role?
A: Gerry is a thrill and a challenge to play every night because his complexity as a human being is captured so well in the script. Brilliantly talented, terribly troubled. He dealt with mental health issues our society didn’t know how to treat then. Most of my research centered around watching interviews and reading some psychology materials to depict him as accurately as I’m able.
Q: Gerry and Carole wrote pop hits for many artists in the 1960s. What are some of your favorites?
A: A difficult question! I grew up with Carole King fanatics for parents, so many of these songs hold a special place. “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” is my favorite in the show because of its poignance in a defining time in Carole’s life, but my all-time favorite is “Up On The Roof”.
Q: Beautiful returns for the 3rd amazing time due to popular demand! Why do you think audiences love this story so much?
A: Aside from its hilarity and the jaw-dropping music and dance numbers (our cast is out of this world), I’d say it’s the authenticity. Beautiful set the standard for biopic musicals. It puts focus on realism that most shows don’t, and has the intimacy of watching a film. I think people forget they’re watching actors on a stage… maybe until they’re up and dancing with us by the end, that is!
Q: What scenes or songs do you love the most in the show? Why?
A: My favorite scene is my first scene, in which Gerry and Carole meet at Queens College. It’s a hilarious and spot on depiction of exactly who both of them were at that time, and the foreshadowing written in is brilliant. Plus, Sara [Sheperd], our Carole, is a stellar scene partner and so much fun onstage, and we both enjoy that scene a lot.
Q: Your debut solo album, So In Love, hit the Top 10 on the iTunes Classical Chart when it was released. Is more music from you in the works?
A: Playing a lyricist [in Beautiful] has been great inspiration to develop lyrics of my own. I do expect to record more in the future, and anticipate a lot more original music to be featured. Hopefully someday soon!
Beautiful plays at the Academy of Music. For tickets, visit the Kimmel Cultural Campus website here. For more from James D. Gish, follow him on Instagram at @jamesdgish or visit his website www.jamesdgish.com.