Nervous and shaking slightly, a young teen holds a folder of sheet music to her chest, raising her hand to knock on a plain office door. It opens to the sound of guitar strings, vocal chords, ringing telephones: a world of music. She introduces herself as Carole King, curly ponytail bouncing.
After a series of introductions and spirited remarks, King finds herself seated at a simple upright piano. Her fingers gently stroke the soft black and white keys, sucking in a breath before first pressing them, before singing the song that would lead to a career of music, before changing her life.
This scene sets the mood of Beautiful- The Carole King Musical, which tells the story of 60s singer/songwriter, Carole King (Abby Mueller) and her relationship with Gerry Goffin (Liam Tobin). The broadway show is currently being directed by Marc Bruni at the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis and will end on November 29.
Since learning to play the piano at the age of four, King always wanted to write and produce songs. At age 16, she pitched her song, “It Might As Well Rain Until September” which received instant popularity and began her journey to fame.
Sprinkled with a variety of hit songs, such as “Who Put the Bomp” and “He’s Sure the Boy I Love,” the Orpheum’s production is full of life and energy, and is definitely worth the trip. Lighting designer Peter Kaczorowski showed off his talent with a vivid display of colorful lights, spotlighting actors and showing the vibrant feel of music during the 60s.
However, the heartfelt duets and solos from Abby Mueller (Carole King) and Liam Tobin (Gerry Goffin) are the real show stopper here. From the moment King comes bounding down the stairs to play her latest tune, Mueller’s acting draws the audience into King’s personality. Through Mueller, we are able to better understand King’s passion for music. We feel the joy of young love and the heartbreak when it ends through Mueller’s raw, emotional voice, and explore the 60s through her eyes.
Tobin performs with similar prowess, executing vocals skillfully and capturing the audience’s hearts along with Carole’s with his deep, rich voice and the emotions he expresses through it. The pair work well together, moving the audience with performances of “Some Kind of Wonderful” and “Take Good Care of My Baby.” Unfortunately, minor microphone problems and issues with different volumes took away from performances that would have otherwise been practically flawless.
While King and Goffin worked well together for a long time, getting married and competing against their rivals Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann, Beautiful shows us that relationships often become broken as time passes, and love doesn’t always last. The audience also ponders the question, “What can you say in three minutes?” This short song length was supposed to have lyrics to guarantee a hit song, but Goffin’s character continuously wondered what more he could express to others in that brief few minutes.
The songs produced by Carole King throughout her lifetime proved again and again that three minutes is more than enough to show the world who you are, and taught audiences that who you are is enough. You don’t need any more, and that truly is some kind of wonderful.