In the mid 1970’s, my oldest friend, Ellen Sullivan, and her family, would make their way from Pelham Bay, in the Bronx, every weekend to their home in the Hamptons. Once school was done in June, they were gone for the summer. Our communications over the summer were limited. There was no way we could call – a phone call from the Bronx to Long Island was considered long distance and we just could not afford that. So, I mastered the art – and I mean the art – of letter writing…courtesy of Carole King.
What shall I write? What can I say? How can I tell you how much I miss you?
The weather here has been as nice as it can be
Although it doesn’t really matter much to me
For all the fun I’ll have while you’re so far away
It might as well rain until September
Well maybe it really did not happen like that..but I think I always imagined it would. You see for me, everything was a song, a commercial, a television show. We did write letters, but I just imagined that song in my head, singing it to Ellen –it seemed that singing was so much more effective than simply writing a letter. The song – “It Might As Well Rain Until September.” written by King and Gerry Goffin – was and remains – one of my favorites.
So when the musical, Beautiful – The Carole King Musical – opens with that song as one of the first numbers, I was instantly transported back to my childhood. And – although I was barely two years old when this song came out, I always lived as if I were born a decade earlier – much in part due to this kind of music.
The story of Carole King’s rise to fame from a highly driven Brooklyn girl to an accomplished song writer to her own career as a solo artist, is told through a series of familiar songs and outstanding performances by the accomplished cast. The partnership, marriage and eventual break-up of King and Goffin are handled with admiration, respect and dignity. There is no bitterness or anger in the story – which could have easily been added for dramatic effect. The King/Goffin relationship is offset by also telling the story of Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann, accomplished songwriters in their own respect, who become the best friends of the couple.
The choice of songs was fantastic – highlighting both couples’ works. Audiences will be amazed how many great songs were written by these amazing talents. Some of my favorites in the first act included,Take Good Care of My Baby, Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?, The Locomotion and One Fine Day. The second act boasts classics like It’s Too Late, Beautiful, A Natural Woman and I Feel the Earth Move.
Leading the cast is the amazingly talented Jesse Mueller. This is the fourth role I have had the pleasure of seeing her perform and her range is just amazing. She plays King with a sensitivity and passion that makes you root for her success. She becomes Carole King. There is an element of her portrayal that has you feeling that as talented as she is, King felt she did not deserve to be that successful, especially after she was thrust into her solo career. The transformation is superb. The Tony competition will be fierce this year as Mueller is sure to be a hot contender. The other leads are excellent as well. Anika Larsen and Jared Spector really stand out. Jake Epstein’s Goffin is soulful and sad at the same time. The ensemble is wonderful.
I am not a fan of the jukebox musical, but sometimes they get it right – this is one of those times. Everything gels and you do “feel the earth move.” Go see Beautiful, The Carole King Musical.
NEXT – THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY