Beautiful: The Carole King Musical – A Journey of Music and Self-Discovery at the Paramount Theatre

Tiffany Topol plays Carole King in Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, Paramount Theatre’s 12th Broadway Series finale. Performances are April 24-June 16, 2024.Credit: Liz Lauren
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“Beautiful: The Carole King Musical” is a captivating and heartwarming celebration of one of the most talented songwriters in American music history. This Broadway sensation takes audiences on a compelling journey through the life and career of Carole King, offering a blend of captivating performances, an evocative storyline, and, of course, unforgettable music. For those of us of a certain age, these songs are a formative soundtrack to our lives. And as presented by the Paramount’s capable cast and orchestra, the trip down musical memory lane is a pure delight.

While it’s a jukebox musical, this one makes sense, as the main characters are the people who wrote the songs in question. The plot chronicles Carole King’s transformation from an ambitious Brooklyn teenager, selling her first song at just 16, to becoming one of the most successful solo artists in music history. It explores her early songwriting days at 1650 Broadway, her tumultuous personal life, and her rise to stardom with the iconic album “Tapestry.” Along the way, the audience is introduced to key people in her life, including her songwriting partner and husband, Gerry Goffin, and fellow songwriters and friends, Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann as well as her mother, who has some of the best lines in the show.

What truly sets “Beautiful” apart is its emphasis on Carole King’s resilience and growth, as she navigates the complexities of love, friendship, and success. From the first blush of young love between King and Goffin, to Goffin’s struggle with mental illness and the repeated infidelity that broke up the marriage, the audience goes through the ups and downs of the relationship along with the actors. The cast, led by Tiffany Topol as a delightful Carole, delivers stellar performances, with Topol encapsulating King’s quiet strength and vulnerability, making it easy for audiences to root for her as she finds her voice, both personally and musically. 

The story doesn’t shy away from the musical contributions of her then husband Gerry Goffin, played by the excellent C.J. Blaine Eldred who does a great job with a person who might very well seem villainous in the hands of a lesser actor. Even if you didn’t know what happened with Goffin’s bipolar disorder, you see it right there in Eldred’s performance.  Best friends Rebecca Hurd as Cynthia Weil and Christopher Kale Jones as Barry Mann act as terrific foils for the story of college sweethearts King and Goffin and also remind you of all of their own incredible contributions to American pop music ranging from the serious “On Broadway” to the ridiculous “Who Put the Bomp.”  “Beautiful” captures two creative partnerships that produced some of the most popular songs of the 1960s.

The musical weaves together a delightful array of Carole King’s hits and some of her most beloved songs written for other artists, providing a perfect blend of nostalgia and excitement. From the infectious energy of “I Feel the Earth Move” to the soulful strains of “Natural Woman,” every number is a testament to King’s genius and her ability to craft music that resonates with audiences of all generations. Other standout songs include “It’s Too Late,” “You’ve Got a Friend,” and “Will You Love Me Tomorrow,” each delivered with emotional depth and musical flair.  Many of the songs are performed by cast members portraying the various artists who made the songs popular, so you have hit performances by The Drifters, The Righteous Brothers, The Shirelles and Little Eva.

This brings me to my biggest gripe with this show.  When the performers were recreating well-known radio hits as they were supposed to have been performed, none of them made any effort to recreate those iconic performances except for Luke Nowakowski and Matt Thinnes as the Righteous Brothers.  The rest created absolutely great cover performances and sang wonderfully, but they didn’t sound anything like the originals.  This is one time when a show could have actually used some imitation, especially stylistically.  These retro songs were not sufficiently retro in vocal performance style to capture the feel of the era.

The musical’s set design and choreography are simple, but allow plenty of scene changes from New York Apartments to the Brill Building to Carnegie Hall, capturing the spirit of the 1960s and 1970s while keeping the focus on the music and the story. The sound was also very well done, with only a few moments of the headset mics being a bit too hot and the voices slightly distorting because of it.  But it’s likely you would only notice this if you were used to running sound.

“Beautiful: The Carole King Musical” is a must-see for anyone who appreciates great music, compelling storytelling, and the power of perseverance. It’s a joyful celebration of a legendary artist and a touching reminder that beauty can emerge from the most challenging of circumstances. With its infectious songs and heartfelt narrative, “Beautiful” leaves audiences feeling uplifted, inspired, and eager to revisit the timeless classics that continue to define Carole King’s legacy.  It’s just a really fun night of theatre.

“Beautiful” is playing at the Paramount until June 16.  Tickets are available at the Paramount Box Office

All photos by Liz Lauren

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  • Suzanne Magnuson

    Professional writer with 20 plus years of experience. M.A., M.B.A. Travel Editor and Social Media Manager for Splash Magazines Worldwide. Senior Editor. Member of Advertising Team.

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About Suzanne Magnuson 138 Articles
Professional writer with 20 plus years of experience. M.A., M.B.A. Travel Editor and Social Media Manager for Splash Magazines Worldwide. Senior Editor. Member of Advertising Team.

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