I’m not really a Broadway type of person. Call me a grouch, but I usually can’t stand the jazzy numbers and more often than not, I am ready to leave moments after the show has begun. Maybe I’m cynical, a no-fun nelly, but I’m just not that interested. I managed through Wicked and the Lion King and ironically have a particular affinity for The Phantom of The Opera, but Chicago was probably the worst show I’ve ever seen. I know its fantastic, award-winning and all, but personally, I was bored, uninterested, and underwhelmed. I’m not saying it’s right, but it’s just how I feel.
That’s why when my mom came to town this weekend and wanted to see Beautiful:The Carole King musical, I didn’t have much faith. My mom reminded me that Carole King was responsible for dozens maybe even hundreds of important songs from the 1960’s onwards, writing and eventually singing her own smashing hits. Still, with my typical Broadway skepticism worn as proudly as an Easter Sunday hat, I accompanied my mother to an 8 o’clock show at the Stephen Sondheim Theatre in the most hellish place on earth: Times Square.
In the most amazing turn of events, what unfolded before me was the delicately personal journey of a teenaged girl turned woman coming into her own amidst a tumultuous relationship and smashing musical numbers that turned into a truly epic career. I was amused, dazzled, and touched deeply like never before. I think the best thing that ever happened to this play was Chilina Kennedy, the musician and Broadway star who, from my mezzanine level seat, truly was Carole King. Kennedy captured King’s gentle mannerisms and pure spirit so effectively that I almost felt guilty; when King heads to the city and finds her husband with another woman, I wanted to turn away and let her have her privacy. Never before had a show has this kind of effect on me.
As much as it was about her love and career with her ex-husband Gerry Goffin, the play gave a heavy nod to the value and meaning of friendship. Fellow songwriters Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil were a form of healthy competition for the couple that also touched their lives on a very personal level. The four together were responsible for a multitude of hits throughout the 60’s and 70’s that interjected the shows dialogue with a lovely dose of nostalgia and straight up amazing tunes that my parents have played for me for years.
All in all, the story comes to a wonderful head as Carole King weathers all that comes her way and blossoms into her own destiny in a way that moved me to tears. My heart was truly singing and not once did I have the urge to leave the theatre. And folks, that says a lot.
If you’re a New Yorker, see the show. If not, include the show in your trip if you ever come to the Big Apple.