Beautiful by Stage West really is

Article content

Stage West’s production of Beautiful: The Carole King Musical is a wonderful thing.

Beautiful is a jukebox musical that tells the story of King’s early career and personal life using songs she wrote with her husband Gerry Goffin, plus songs that her best friends and fiercest competitors, Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, wrote in the 1960s.

Article content

The 15 years that the musical versions lasted were tumultuous for both couples, in terms of relationships and careers, because fame came to them when they were all in their teens. Carole and Gerry wrote songs like Some Kind of Wonderful and Up on the Roof for the Drifters, while Barry and Cynthia would give The Drifters a hit with On Broadway. Carole and Gerry would score big hits with Bobby Vee’s Take Good Care of My Baby, The Shirelles’ Will You Love Me Tomorrow and The Chiffons’ One Fine Day, while Barry and Cynthia would give The Animals a hit with We Gotta Get Out . of this Place, and The Righteous Brothers’ mega hit You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin.

Article content

Douglas McGrath, creator of Beautiful, suggests that the lyrics of these hit songs were deeply personal, and that’s what director Dayna Tekatch and her talented artists in the Stage West production make abundantly clear.

West stage
Kaylee Harwood as Carole King in Stage West’s Beautiful. Photo, photography by Lee Siegel. California

When Kaylee Howard sings One Fine Day, she bleeds pathos and pain from the lyrics ‘You’ll want the love you threw away before’ because womanizing Goffin told King he wanted to sleep with Janelle Woods, the lead singer of The Chiffons. Gone is that silly feeling of the successful version.

Sayer Roberts as Goffin does the same with Up on the Roof, the song Goffin wrote to express how he would escape his difficult home life. The bravado he brings to the song is lost when The Drifters sing it, but that’s the magic in Tekatch’s production. The great singers who bring The Drifters to life, Shirelles and Chiffons give us the nostalgic versions of the songs, but Howard and Roberts give us the heart and soul. It helps enormously that Stage West is an intimate venue because we feel like we are there, in the room, with these characters and the actors who bring them to life.

Article content

West Stage
Alex Gullakson, Billy Lake, Sayer Roberts and Kaylee Harwood in Stage West’s Beautiful. Photo, Lee Siegel Photography California

While Mann and Weil, Billy Lake and Alex Gullason have more fun with that couple’s collaborations, as we see when they write You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling. Barry makes fun of Cynthia’s lyrics because she repeats the word baby a lot and uses whoa-oh, only for Andrew McGillvray and Alex Wierzbiciki, as The Righteous Brothers, to make those lyrics soar, showing why this song has been called the definitive pop album.

Initially, Harwood brings such a sense of youth, optimism, and joy to his King that it’s painful to watch Goffin’s infidelity, depression, and ego destroy all of that. Instead of getting excited when The Monkees want to record Pleasant Valley Sunday, he throws a tantrum and runs to his latest lover. He was a man who wanted to be a playwright, not a lyricist, although his lyrics are still praised today.

When King finally begins recording her own songs for the Tapestry album, Harwood shows a much more mature, focused, and much happier and fulfilled artist. It’s a beautiful, carefully developed performance, illustrating what King meant when he wrote and sang You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman.

Tekatch ensures that the stage is a whirlwind of activity between each of the dialogue scenes and musical numbers as the actors, completely in character, move pieces to change places.

Choreographer Ken Overbey turns The Locomotion, the song King and Goffin wrote for Little Eva, into a huge, flashy, fun production number, giving the performers all those classic moves that defined groups like The Drifters and The Shirelles. .

Beautiful: The Carole King Musical is truly a beautiful way to spend an evening and is playing at Stage West through June 23.

Share this article in your social network

Leave a Comment