Feel the Earth Move in “Beautiful”

Not only will “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical” cause you to feel the earth move under your feet with its assortment of unforgettable chart-toppers, it will also provide a glimpse into Carole King’s inspiring life. Running through Sunday, Feb. 18, Broadway Grand Rapids brings this upbeat musical to the DeVos Performance Hall.

With clever one-liners and entertaining performances, this musical proves to be “some kind of wonderful.” “Beautiful” depicts the story of how a teenage songwriter and composer became one of the most iconic singer/songwriters of all time.

When Carole King (Sarah Bockel) was only 16 years old, she sold her song “It Might As Well Rain Until September” to music publisher Don Kirshner (James Clow), even though her disapproving mother (Suzanne Grodner) wanted her to become a teacher. While attending Queens College, King meets the handsome lyricist Gerry Goffin (Andrew Brewer) and the two partner up, both musically and romantically.

After King announces she is pregnant, they get married and begin writing and composing for Kirshner. Not only do Cynthia Weil (Sarah Goeke) and Barry Mann (Jacob Heimer) become King and Goffin’s good friends, but they also become their songwriting rivals, which leads to a collection of hit songs, such as “On Broadway,” “The Loco-Motion,” and “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin.’”

Four Friends. (l to r) James Clow (“Don Kirshner”), Andrew Brewer (“Gerry Goffin”), Sarah Bockel (“Carole King”), Jacob Heimer (“Barry Mann”) and Sarah Goeke (“Cynthia Weil”). Photo by Matthew Murphy
Four Friends. (l to r) James Clow (“Don Kirshner”), Andrew Brewer (“Gerry Goffin”), Sarah Bockel (“Carole King”), Jacob Heimer (“Barry Mann”) and Sarah Goeke (“Cynthia Weil”). Photo by Matthew Murphy

However, King and Goffin’s relationship struggles as they grow older and after a series of ups and downs, King leaves Goffin and moves to Los Angeles, where she discovers her own voice through writing and recording the four-time Grammy award-winning album, “Tapestry.”

Because “Beautiful” shows the behind-the-scenes process for a medley of timeless classics, this production displays an impressive set that transitions effortlessly from a gold-tinted office to a dazzling stage where prominent groups performed, such as The Drifters and The Shirelles.

These scenes not only showcased the stunning, colorful costumes but were also exciting and interesting since audience members could see how the song originated and how it later turned into a number one hit record.

While the whole cast showed off extreme talent, Bockel gave a remarkable performance with her genuine spirit and strong and powerful voice. Goeke and Heimer were also favorable characters as they added quick wit and humor throughout the musical. Another highlight was Bockel and Brewer’s instant chemistry when they first met, which creates a funny and sweet introduction and shows the initial spark between King and Goffin.

Photo by Matthew Murphy
You’ve Got a Friend. (l to r) James Clow (“Don Kirshner”), Jacob Heimer (“Barry Mann”), Sarah Bockel (“Carole King”) and Sarah Goeke (“Cynthia Weil”). Photo by Matthew Murphy

Although all the songs were fun to watch, the best moments were when Bockel started performing the music from King’s “Tapestry” album. While Bockel sang a tender and emotional farewell with Goeke, Heimer and Clow in “You’ve Got a Friend,” the final song, “Beautiful,” was simple, yet powerful as Bockel closes the show singing and playing the piano alone onstage.

Whether you are a diehard Carole King fan and can sing every song by heart or just know a few of her songs, this musical has something for everyone. “Beautiful” is an inspiring story about self-discovery and a wonderful production of Carole King’s greatest hits. See it before it’s too late.

Performances continue through Feb. 18. Tickets can be purchased online through Ticketmaster or at Broadway Grand Rapids.

*Main photo by Matthew Murphy (Carnegie Hall. Sarah Bockel, “Carole King”)

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