Entertainment Hollywood Stage

STAGE REVIEW: ‘Beautiful’ tells story of 1960s songwriters

HOLLYWOOD — “Beautiful — The Carole King Musical” is more than advertised.

It’s not just the story of the singer-songwriter who went from co-writing some of the more popular hits of the pre-British Invasion 1960s to helping pave the way for the singer-songwriter movement in the 1970s with “Tapestry,” although that’s the gist of the musical playing at the Hollywood Pantages through July 17.

But “Beautiful” is also about the songwriting process that dominated the New York musical scene in the early 1960s and about the friendships and the rivalries that scene produced before Bob Dylan and the Beatles made composing your own songs the thing to do for up-and-coming musical stars.

There are six songs from “Tapestry,” King’s 1971 album that held the number one album slot on Billboard’s chart for 15 consecutive weeks   and remained on the charts for six years.

But anyone who grew up in the 1960s will recognize most, if not all, of the other 21 songs that are performed by a skilled, ensemble cast, starring Abby Mueller as King.

Mueller is joined by Liam Tobin as Gerry Goffin, King’s husband and songwriting partner; Becky Gulsvig and Ben Fankhauser as the friendly rival songwriting team of Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann; and Curt Bouril as music impressario Don Kirshner.

Those are the five main characters in the show, which lets the music of Goffin and King and Weil and Mann do most of the talking.

Music producer Don Kirshner (Curt Bouril) listens as Gerry Goffin (Liam Tobin), Carole King (Abby Mueller), Barry Mann (Ben Fankhauser) and Cynthia Weil (Becky Gulsvig ) work on songs during 'Beautiful — The Carole King Musical' at the Hollywood Pantages. (Photo by Joan Marcus)
Music producer Don Kirshner (Curt Bouril) listens as Gerry Goffin (Liam Tobin), Carole King (Abby Mueller), Barry Mann (Ben Fankhauser) and Cynthia Weil (Becky Gulsvig ) work on songs during ‘Beautiful — The Carole King Musical’ at the Hollywood Pantages. (Photo by Joan Marcus)

An ensemble group of background singers do most of the performing as the Shirelles, the Drifters and other groups that performed the hit songs here that include “Some Kind of Wonderful,” “Take Good Care of My Baby,” “Up on the Roof,” “On Broadway,” “The Locomotion,” “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling,” “One Fine Day,” “Chains,” “Walking in the Rain,” “Pleasant Valley Sunday” and “We Gotta Get Out of This Place.”

Douglas McGrath’s book does a good job of capturing the tensions of the competitive songwriting business and the complex relationships between King and Goffin and Mann and Weil in a script that is fast-paced with quirky humor.

If there is a fault in the script, it is making it seem like King went from a young mother of two young daughters leaving a philandering husband to become an overnight success with “Tapestry” and a Carnegie Hall concert in the span of about 15 minutes, when actually the transformation of King as a songwriter to a singer-songwriter performer actually took three or four years and included a couple of albums, one by a group called The City, and the other her solo debut “Writer,” which preceded “Tapestry” by a year.

But that’s a small quibble for an otherwise enjoyable two-and-a-half-hour-plus show.

Like “Jersey Boys” before it, the real star of “Beautiful” is the music.

If you weren’t tapping your foot or singing along at one point or another, you were saying “I didn’t know they wrote that song.”

All in all, it was a show that brought back good musical memories with an entertaining story that stirred all of the emotions at one time or another.

“Beautiful — The Carole King Musical

Where: Hollywood Pantages

When: Tuesdays through Fridays at 8 p.m., Saturdays at 2 and 8 p.m. and Sundays at 1 and 6:30 p.m. through July 17.

Tickets: $29 and up.

 

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