-By Brenda Hillegas
photo by Joan Marcus
Carole King. You know the name. You know some of her music. But do you know all of her music and how her career began? Now through February 27th at the Kimmel Cultural Campus Academy of Music, Philadelphia can be transported back to the ’60s through Beautiful: The Carole King Musical. Watch King’s true story unfold and witness her musical catalogue come to life.
This Tony and Grammy award winning musical tells the inspiring story of Carole King, her career as a songwriter with husband Gerry Goffin before she became a successful solo act, and even features the hits from songwriting friends Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann. Carole King’s story is one of determination and never giving up her dream of going all the way to the top.
You’ll smile every time a song you know begins to play on stage in front of you. Sara Sheperd is fantastic as Carole King, perfectly becoming her as she starts the show with “So Far Away” and ends with “Beautiful”, of course. And just wait until you hear “(You Make Me Feel Like) a Natural Woman”. James D. Gish (read my Q&A with him here) brings great emotions to the role of Gerry Goffin, and the audience can get a sense of his working/personal relationship with Carole as well as his mental health battles. Some standout songs for this role include “Pleasant Valley Sunday” (which was given to The Monkees) and “Up On the Roof” (The Drifters). We also see the duo’s creation of songs like “The Locomotion” for Little Eva, “Some Kind of Wonderful” for The Drifters), and “Will You Love Me Tomorrow” for The Shirelles.
There’s epic chemistry between Sara King (as Cynthia Weil) and Ryan Farnsworth (as Barry Mann). Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann were another iconic writing duo in the Brill Building, creating hits for The Drifters (“On Broadway”), The Animals (“We Gotta Get Out of This Place”), The Righteous Brothers (“You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling”) and countless others. Throughout Beautiful, you’ll witness these groups portrayed by the ensemble – I love the costume changes, transforming from one artist to the next, and how much the cast sounds and looks like the real artists.
From a young teenager who sold songs to a major record label, managing a home and family life while continuing to release hit after hit for popular artists, and eventually creating her own albums and becoming a successful solo act- Carole King is an icon with music still so loved decades after her career began. Hear her story and relive the music on stage. Tickets are available here.