The first national touring cast of Beautiful: the Carol King Musical has stopped at the Fabulous Fox theatre in St. Louis Missouri. The show follows the life of songwriter Carole King using her (and some friends) songs and lyrics to tell the stories behind the music of a generation.
I was lucky enough to see this show on Broadway. Jesse Mueller was wonderful and after hearing her sister Abby was taking on the touring role as “Carole”, I was just as excited as I was walking into the Stephen Sondhiem Theatre in New York. I was not disappointed! Her charm hit all the way to the back of the house. Abby got laughs and gasps and applause for her delivery on many difficult scenes. Her connection with Liam Tobin, who played Gerry Goffin, was great. Liam attacked his role in a way that showed the crowd “Gerry’s” struggle and allowed a journey from anger to empathy. Another powerful part of Carole’s life was her mother and Suzanne Grodner was funny and touching as “Genie”. One scene had many pauses because of audience applause after her motherly advice.
Sparking on stage, was the chemistry between Becky Gulsvig (Cynthia Weil) and Ben Fankhauser (Barry Mann). He had me cracking up with all his one liners, and she owned the stage from the moment she walked on. The harmonies in the groups of the Drifters and the Shirelles had me feeling like I was listening to classic vinyl. The ensemble was great did a wonderful job of filling that big stage with energy.
The staging is different from the Broadway production, but in a fitting way. I enjoyed the use of lights to set different scenes. This production used all forms of lighting to fade away and show two scenes at the same time. I also liked the background being full of musical instruments. It added to the point of music as storytelling. The audience could be heard sighing at the start of a scene with the realization of where these songs came from and the stories behind them. This show is a true jukebox musical, with a heart and soul.
If I had one complaint, which has nothing to show with the show itself, it would be with the panic seating of late arriving audience members. Ushers waited 3 songs and then brought a crowd down the main aisle. Maybe it was my seat, near the back of the Orchestra section but it was very distracting. I could go on about theatre etiquette, but a review doesn’t seem like the place. Just show up on time please!
The run continues this week and closes on Sunday March 6th. Check out fabulousfox.com or beautifulonbroadway.com for ticket and show information.