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REVUE: Carole King’s Life is celebrated magnificently in ‘Beautiful’ in Saugatuck

Review June 27, 2024 Marin Heinritz

“Sometimes when life doesn’t go the way you want, you find something beautiful,” declares Katie Fay Francis as Carole King, singer and songwriter extraordinaire, from behind a piano at the start of “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical” at Saugatuck Center for the Arts.

The multiple Tony Award winning 2014 show with book by Douglas McGrath begins the way it ends, with King performing her iconic songs solo at Carnegie Hall, and it is, indeed, a beautiful frame for this nostalgic coming-of-age jukebox musical about one of the most prolific and beloved songwriters of the 20th Century. The story strings together the songs of hers we know as well as so many hit songs from the ‘50s and ‘60s we might not realize she wrote; however, it also has real heart as well as humor, and ultimately tells an inspiring story about women’s empowerment through one exceedingly humble woman who finds and uses her glorious voice at a moment of cultural revolution. 

Universally excellent and nuanced, triple-threat performances from the two-dozen cast members make this textured story spring to life, yes, beautifully, along with perfectly arresting and complementary technical elements: a glorious, multi-level, Mid-Century-inspired set by Ranae Selmeyer that, beautifully lit by Jennifer Kules, effectively shifts between glitzy concert performances and intimate interior scenes, thanks in part to lightening-quick scene transitions; as well as fun, quick-change, sleight-of-hand, period costumes coordinated by Emily Stein. All together it makes for a dazzling effect and seamless storytelling under exceptional direction from Kurt Stamm.

“When I hear a good song I feel like someone understands me,” King says before she’s King, when just a Brooklyn girl named Klein who aspires to write songs rather than teach, the profession her overbearing yet hilarious mother (Gino Milo) has in mind for her. And so it begins: she sells her first song; partners with lyricist Gerry Goffin (Elliott Litherland) while they’re still teenagers—with whom she quickly gets pregnant and then marries; befriends other songwriting team and couple Cynthia Weil (Payton Reilly) and Barry Mann (Kyle Southern) with whom they have a rousing competition for hit songs; the marriage falls apart in ways marriages do, though she’s the one who’s wronged; and at that turning point she begins writing songs that only she can sing. 

Read more…from the review published in REVUE

Beautiful: The Carole King Musical
Saugatuck Center for the Arts
June 22-July 14

Week of 7/15/2024

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