WARNING: This review contains plot spoilers.
Carole King, it has been reported, has no plans to see the story of her life on the Broadway stage. If, in fact, she's doing it because it's just "too personal," she needn't worry - it never gets too deep. But if she wants to avoid the show because she wants to avoid being embarrassed, I totally support her. Douglas McGrath's banal, boring book - a cross between a sit-com, and a weak Behind-the-Music documentary - shoe-horns in all the facts, but so little of the emotion and real influences of her life. It reduces the life of one of America's greatest composer-lyricists to a live Wikipedia article. He mentions, for example, that Ms. King skipped two grades in high school, three times in the first ten minutes of the show. What does it say about a musical when the height of tension in the whole thing revolves around an abruptly ended game of strip poker followed by a "no" at an awkward marriage proposal? The lone time, and I do mean the lone time, McGrath shows us instead of tells us anything is when Gerry Goffin inexplicably begins to stutter uncontrollably, and the result is an ever so brief glimpse at what Beautiful: The Carole King Musical might have been.
|The Beautiful Company
That is not to say that the show is without its charms, some of them considerable. Technically, Alejo Vietti's numerous costumes and Charles G. LaPointe's bounty of period wigs are top notch, as is Peter Kaczorowski's delightfully old school lighting - not an overwrought, garish projection screen in sight - which fits the numerous locations of the story and highlights the performance scenes perfectly. I should also mention that Brian Ronan's sound design is flawless. The choreography supplied by Josh Rhodes is high quality, full of energy and evocative of the period. The numbers by "The Drifters" and "The Shirelles" are especially fun; I loved watching them change formations and effortlessly glide through smooth move after move. "On Broadway" and "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?" were definite highlights.
|Brown, Epstein, Mueller, Spector and larsen
(Top) Jessie Mueller and Jake Epstein
(Bottom) Jarrod Spector and Anika Larsen
I guess what is so annoying about this latest bio-jukebox musical is the untapped potential. Carole King deserves much more. It isn't nearly as bad as Motown, and it is epic theatre compared to the insultingly bad Baby It's You! But it is a definite reminder that enough is enough of such "musicals."
Photos by Joan Marcus