In “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical,” we see Carole’s journey from hopeful teenager to genius composer, all the way to becoming a confident performer and recording artist.
The Beardict: With her amazing performance in Beautiful, Kayla Rivera goes all the way and brings Carole King right before our eyes. Atlantis Theatrical does a stellar job in showing us how much musical impact King brought over the years—whether as a composer in the sidelines or a singer in front of the crowds. Without a doubt, “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical” is a delightful and relatable ride for both young and old folks alike.
The story: While it’s true that everyone has a story to tell, the most inspiring ones almost always have simple beginnings. Carole was shown as a shy, unassuming 16-year-old girl, but with talent and tenacity already coursing through her veins.
She had a singular purpose: to be a composer, a profession dominated by men. Early on, we saw that musical fire in her come alive as she pushed her mom out of the piano chair so she can let her hear what she created. As things progressed, we witnessed how different stages of her life affected the music that she came up with and the lyrics that her husband Gerry Goffin wrote.
Although her experiences were indeed beautiful, they were not without conflict. Her best friends Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, who also worked under talent manager and music publisher Don Kirshner during that time, provided the much-needed comic relief while solving problems of their own.
Aside from tackling Carole’s life and that of the people around her, “Beautiful” highlights how the music industry was during the 50s and 60s. Composers like Carole were always in the shadows but never the light, as the songs they wrote were assigned to popular singers and groups at the time. They also sometimes could not let their creativity flow freely, as they had to cater to what type of music would sell records.
The music: Carole King had many hits over the years, and a lot of them are featured in the musical. It’s one thing to appreciate their greatness as songs when we catch them on the radio or Spotify, but it’s another to actually know the meaning behind them. For example, “It’s Too Late” is an iconic song about a lost love, but in the musical, we get to find out why it was written and for whom. It is also very entertaining to get different versions of the songs she composed (like the way “Some Kind of Wonderful” has a version from both Carole and the Drifters), veering away from the traditional song-reprise format.
Additionally, even though it is called The Carole King Musical, the theater production featuring songs from Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil was a nice touch that gave a better picture of the music prevailing during that time, and all the evolutions that followed.
The performances: Kayla Rivera has been missed. She did well in “Aladdin” and “Addams Family,” but it’s pretty obvious that her excellent portrayal of Carole King is her new crown jewel. Her ability to convey emotions both through song and simple dialogue was quite effective, and she had great chemistry with costar Nick Varricchio (who played Gerry Goffin).
Overall, together with Mikkie Bradshaw-Volante (Cynthia Weil) and George Schulze (Barry Mann), the main cast quartet had fantastic performances. However, my personal favorite among everyone is Schulze for being a true chameleon. If not for the souvenir program, I would not have realized that he is the same guy who played Earl in last year’s “Waitress!” Everything about Barry is different—look, posture, mannerisms, singing voice, speaking voice, and accent, and yet, Schulze was able to pull it off, and then some!
Rounding up the awesome cast are theatre veterans such as Maronne Cruz, Jamie Wilson, and Carla Guevara-Laforteza, and a solid ensemble group who probably had more than 10 costume changes during the entire show. Of course, none of these would have mattered if the cast were not supported by an extremely talented orchestra led by Musical Director Farley Asuncion.
The style: The set was simple but quite effective. There were times when only Rivera and a piano were in front of the audience, and yet it didn’t feel like the stage was bare or lacking. I especially enjoyed how it felt like I was attending an actual Carole King concert whenever the scene focused on Carole playing in front of a crowd (the piano zooming towards the audience was just perfect). The ending song “I Feel The Earth Move” was casually performed after the curtain call, encouraging the audience to stand and clap to the beat.
The audience connection: We are positive that everyone who watches “Beautiful” would head home with a smile on their face. Whether you were already a teenager when “Locomotion” came out or your parents haven’t even met yet, you’re sure to find something to connect with while watching the musical.
For the older generation, it’s the nostalgia that the songs bring. I watched with my dad, and it’s certainly the case with him. Born in the 50s, he told me that he knew almost all of the songs performed, and they reminded him of his younger years. “You’ve Got A Friend” was one of the first songs he learned to play on the guitar, and “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow” was actually a song he dedicated to a former crush. Woah, right?
For the younger generation, it’s the reminder that good music is timeless and always relatable, no matter what decade you were born in or what genre you love listening to. I was not surprised at all when I went on a Carole King binge after I watched “Beautiful.” It was the right thing to do!
#AtlantisTwenty and Director Bobby Garcia are really on a roll this 2019. With “Angels in America” receiving rave reviews earlier this year, and now “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical” charming its audiences to the fullest, their version of Stephen Sondheim’s “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street” featuring Jett Pangan and Lea Salonga is bound to be a hit—and I honestly can’t wait!
Photos courtesy of Atlantis Theatrical. Catch Beautiful: The Carole King Musical every weekend from June 14 to July 7 at the Meralco Theater!