If you’ve somehow let yourself go this long without catching the award-winning “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical” then you better hurry up and get tickets before it leaves Chicago.
Based on the life of iconic singer-songwriter Carole King from her time working in New York’s Brill Building to the production of her best-selling album “Tapestry,” “Beautiful” is a nostalgia-filled play that captures your ears with familiar songs and your heart with a protagonist you can’t help but fall in love with. The production not only recreates the moments when songs like “Will You Love Me Tomorrow,” “Up On the Roof,” and “Some Kind of Wonderful” were born but uses those songs to highlight key moments of King’s life.
King came up through the music industry as part of a legendary songwriting duo with her ex-husband Gerry Goffin. King and Goffin wrote over two dozen hit songs for groups like The Shirelles, Bobby Vee, and The Drifters. The dynamic inside the Brill Building demonstrates the competition in writing hits, shown in the play by the friendly rivalry of the fellow songwriting duo of Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil. We see both sets of duos try to one-up each other with hit after hit.
While the dynamic is interesting it is really Abby Mueller’s portrayal of King that soars throughout the show. Mueller’s decisions as King makes the audience cheer for her at every new accomplishment, sympathize with every painful moment of her marriage, mentally push her at every moment of insecurity, and be in awe of her at every musical triumph. Mueller’s vocal prowess helps sell many of the songs as well. While she has learned to capture King’s tone and rasp there are moments when she travels from King to R&B superstar vocal power within the same song. During the performance of “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” Mueller starts out sounding like King but ends up sounding like Aretha Franklin as the song builds. This isn’t a knock on her portrayal, but a clever storytelling tool to show the audience how what seem like simple compositions from King are actually powerhouse love songs. It’s this juxtaposition of ordinary person on the outside but genius talent on the inside that makes the play so outstanding.
“Beautiful: The Carole King Musical” runs until Sunday, Feb. 21 at the Oriental Theatre located at 24 W. Randolph St. For tickets and more information visit broadwayinchicago.com/show/beautiful-the-carole-king-musical.