The title of the newest show to play the Oriental Theatre describes the production itself, from start to finish-“Beautiful”. Yes there is something more to add-” The Carole King Musical”. This is the first National Tour of this amazing biography that took Broadway by storm depicting the amazing story of the amazing, and very talented, Carole king (aka Carole Klein), a Jewish girl from Brooklyn whose music is magic to our ears and our hearts. To make this sterling production even stronger for Chicago audiences is knowing that the actress who brings this character to life is Abby Mueller, a local talent, and who is replacing the Tony Award winning Jessie Mueller (her little sister), in the title role. How proud her parents were this evening (as was Grandma) and probably all of Chicago theater audiences, who have watched this family on our stages for years and years! BRAVO!
This story, with a book by Douglas McGrath along with words and music by Gerry Goffin & Carole King along with Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil takes us on the trip that was her early life as she went to Manhattan to begin her career as a songwriter. Her selling her first song and meeting writer Gerry Goffin ( a superb performance by Liam Tobin) who became her first love and the partner in music that changed her life. We see her rise to the top and the problems in her personal life; we meet her best friends in the industry Cynthia Weill (the adorable Becky Gulsvig) and her beau, Barry Mann (deftly handled by Ben Fankhauser). We watch these two couples compete over a period of years trying to stay on top of an industry that can change from day to day.
Just think about some of the music created by these four artists: “Take Good Care of My Baby”,, “Up On The Roof”, “Will You Love Me Tomorrow”, “On Broadway” and so many more. The groups that rose to the top with the songs they created- The Shirelles, The Drifters, Janelle, The Righteous Brothers and again, the list goes on and on. The small but highly talented ensemble truly shows the importance of the ensemble to making a show reach perfection and exceed the expectations of those who paid to see it. This one is one that “Must Be Seen”!
The musicians led by Susan Draus on the keys is sensational, never drowning out the voices that grace the stage. Marc Bruni’s direction along with the choreography of Josh Prince is stunningly beautiful and the set (Derek McLane) works to set the story and yet, not be overpowering in any way. Often, Broadway shows tend to get far too glitzy, taking the focus away from the story and the talent that creates the illusion known as theater. This never happens in this show. It is the ensemble and the characters that capture our hearts and souls. Curt Bouril as Don Kirshner, the man who started the ball rolling, Suzanne Grodner as the adorable and very funny Genie Klein ( Carole’s mother, who always wanted her to be a songwriter/performer), Mark Banik, Ashley Blanchet, Sarah Bockel, Andrew Brewer, Britney Coleman, Rebecca E. Covington, Josh A Dawson, John Michaels Dias (who makes one heck of a Righteous Brother along with Andrew Brewer), Ryan Farnsworth, Rosharra Francis, Jay McKenzie, Alaina Mills, Paris Nix, Noah J. Ricketts, Nasia Thomas, Salisha Thomas, Delaney Westfall and Dashaun Young. Each and every one of these talented performers prove that there are no small roles- each one does everything asked of them to make this the show it is.
Here is where I must devote some special time to the star of this show, Abby Mueller. A talent that we have watched grow up in the Chicago theater community. In fact, her entire family is involved and has been for many years. She graces the stage and the role with something unique and special and doesn’t try to do any of what Jessie did in her interpretation of the role. Let’s face it. This is a live person that we all know or at least know of, which makes it harder for her to create believablea character. While Abby does become Carole King as the show progresses, she does it with some of her and her soul making it her role. That my friend is what acting is all about and Abby Mueller truly gets it!
“Beautiful- The Carole King Musical” will continue at The Oriental Theatre located at 24 West Randolph Street through February 21st . To see the schedule, visit www.BroadwayInChicago.com where you can also purchase tickets which will sell out quickly ranging from $30- $140. You can also visit any of the Broadway In Chicago box offices, call the Broadway In Chicago Ticketline at 1-800-775-2000, visit all Ticketmaster outlets or again. www.BroadwayInChicago.com where you can also purchase discounted parking.