Aleteia logoAleteia logoAleteia
Saturday 03 June |
Saint of the Day: St. Charles Lwanga and the Martyrs of Ugan...
Aleteia logo
separateurCreated with Sketch.

Broadway Review: ‘Beautiful: The Carole King Musical’

Theatre Review Beautiful The Carole King Musical Promo


Christopher White - published on 01/17/14

It might be a musical about Carole King, but it is very much actress Jessie Mueller’s show.

What can God do in your life with one Bible verse a day?
Subscribe to Aleteia's new service and bring Scripture into your morning:
Just one verse each day.
Click to bring God's word to your inbox

When Carole King’s pop album “Tapestry” was released in 1971, it went on to hold the longest record for the number one selling album in the country for over twenty years straight. Forty years later, it remains one of the most popular albums of all time. With hits like “A Natural Woman,” “You’ve Got a Friend,” and “So Far Away,” King cemented her reputation as one of the great singer-songwriters of the 20th century. What’s not as well known about her is that she was a successful songwriter for other singers long before she began performing her own music. This is the story that’s told in the newly opened Broadway musical, Beautiful: The Carole King Musical.

Born a Brooklyn girl, King began writing music as an early teenager and had sold her first song by age eighteen. While at college she met Gerry Goffin, whom she would later marry and have two daughters with, while collaborating with him as her lyricist. During this time the two would churn out such classics as “Will You Still Love Me,” “The Loco Motion,” and “It Might as Well Rain Until September.” Their music was sung and recorded by the likes of the Monkees, the Beatles, and the Shirelles.

With a snappy and well paced book by Douglas McGrath, the first act of Beautiful chronicles King’s initial rise to stardom, along with hers and Goffin’s developing friendship with another singer-songwriter couple, Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann who wrote in the office next door to Carole and Jerry. Together Weil and Mann would write hits such as “Who Put the Bomp” and “On Broadway.” Beautiful is undeniably a jukebox musical jammed full of all of these classic hits, but for lovers of this era, it’s more than just a stroll down memory lane—it’s a reincarnation of some all time favorites, as this cast delivers some unforgettable performances.

The second act of Beautiful reveals the less glamorous side of King’s life as she divorces Goffin after she discovers his numerous extramarital affairs and decides to relocate with her girls to Los Angeles. It’s there where her songwriting becomes a form of therapy and healing and she gains the confidence to perform her own work herself. The rest, as they say, is history.

In the star turning title role of Carole King is Jessie Mueller who made her Broadway debut a few year’s ago with a Tony nominated performance of On a Clear Day You Can See Forever. Her performance as King is a revelation, securing her an immediate spot in the pantheon of the great living female stage actresses of our day. Her voice is tender and reminiscent of King’s, but very much alive with a subtle energy and grace of her own making. From the moment she opens the show sitting at a grand piano performing “So Far Away,” she commands the stage and entrances the audience alike. This might be a musical about Carole King, but it is very much Mueller’s show.  

Jake Epstein delivers a fine performance as Gerry Goffin, a man torn between true love to King, but with a mind and a heart too passionate and active to settle down to commit to her or their music. Anika Larsen is a classy Cynthia Weil who along with Jarrod Spector as Barry Mann are quite the dynamic duo. Both are charming performers that pair well alongside Mueller and Epstein.

Directed by Mike Bruni and choreographed by Josh Prince, the show’s songs are integrated seamlessly with the storytelling. Derek McClane’s sleek scenic cleverly transforms the stage into a music studio, a Brooklyn apartment, and even Carnegie Hall, without unnecessary fanfare, allowing for the show’s actors to do the real work of setting both the tone and location.

Combining the hits of the great Carole King with the soul stirring performance of Jessie Mueller, this new musical is a must see. When Ms. Mueller returns to the stage one last time at the show’s end to perform the King classic, “I Feel the Earth Move,” the crowd goes wild. Whether it’s praise for Mueller or a plea for the show not to end is anyone’s guess, but one thing is clear: Beautiful is, well, just what it claims to be.

Beautiful: The Carole King Musical is currently playing an open-ended run at the Stephen Sondheim Theatre in New York City. Directed by Mike Bruni, Choreographed by Josh Prince, and Musical Supervision by Jason Howland. Music and lyrics by Jerry Goffin, Carole King, Barry Mann, and Cynthia Weil. Starring Jessie Mueller and Jake Epstein.

Christopher White is the Director of Education and Programs for the Center for Bioethics and Culture Network, author of Renewal: How a New Generation of Faithful Priests and Bishops is Revitalizing the Catholic Church, and theatre critic for Aleteia. He is the 2013-2014 Robert Novak Fellowship Award Winner and writes frequently on matters of bioethics, public policy, and theatre. He lives in New York City.

Support Aleteia!

Enjoying your time on Aleteia?

Articles like these are sponsored free for every Catholic through the support of generous readers just like you.

Thanks to their partnership in our mission, we reach more than 20 million unique users per month!

Help us continue to bring the Gospel to people everywhere through uplifting and transformative Catholic news, stories, spirituality, and more.

Support Aleteia with a gift today!

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...

Entrust your prayer intentions to our network of monasteries

Top 10
See More
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.