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Photos: Samara Caplan and Laura Gauthier

Theatre Review: Beautiful—The Carole King Musical at the NAC—until 01.06.19

By Samara Caplan and Laura Gauthier on January 3, 2019





By Samara Caplan and Laura Gauthier. Laura and Samara spend their days as non-profit unicorns and fill every spare minute exploring the world of musical theatre as BFFs (that’s Broadway Friends Forever).

Beautiful – The Carole King Musical presented by Broadway Across Canada is now playing at the National Arts Centre. It is only a short touring run, but trust us when we say it’s a show you won’t want to miss.

Beautiful tells the true story of the life and career of singer/songwriter Carole King, and this tour even features some stars from the Broadway run.

If you don’t recognize the name Carole King, we can guarantee you will recognize one of her many hit songs, whether it’s “I Feel the Earth Move”, “You’ve Got a Friend” or “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” which was made famous by the queen of soul, Aretha Franklin. Before Carole King broke out as a solo artist her career started as a songwriter, she penned some of the world’s favourite songs of the 60’s. Her first hit, was written at just age 17. “Will You Love Me Tomorrow”, “The Loco-Motion” and “One Fine Day” are just a few of the power house songs that are known throughout generations still to this day.

This show allows us to see how many of these songs came to be, and how King broke into a singing career which really flourished in the early 70’s with her album Tapestry.

Beautiful takes the audience not only through the story of Carole King’s professional career but also through the ups and downs of her personal life, and though King faced many struggles, her passion and her unbreakable will will leave you feeling hopeful and inspired.

Though King faced many struggles, her passion and her unbreakable will will leave you feeling hopeful and inspired.

The story centres around King, played by Sarah Bockel for all but the first show of this run, but we would be remiss not to mention the key role friends and fellow writing duo Barry Mann (Jacob Heimer) and Cynthia Weil (Alison Whitehurst) play in the show. The peek into the growth of their career not only allows for some more of your favourite tunes to appear throughout the show (think “We Gotta Get Out of This Place”) but paints the key role friendship had in Carole King’s life. It helps to develop her as a person and give her strength when she needed just a little push to do what was best for herself.

The story line is enthralling and stunning, but there are so many more pieces that help to make this show so amazing. The sets can go from being as simple as a single piano on an empty stage to floor to ceiling frames covered in lights creating a multi-room office, each set flows seamlessly into the next. The details are incredible too – light across an office floor made to look like it’s coming in through blinds, and lights creating hallways for office scenes help set the mood without you even noticing.

The choreography, whether it’s just the movement of an actor across the stage or a full dance number (keep your eyes peeled for “On Broadway”—one of our personal favourites), fits perfectly with the music and the era. Be sure not to blink or you may miss one of the many fantastical costume changes that take place right on stage—literally in the blink of an eye!

There’s no doubt in our minds that Beautiful appeals to audiences of all ages, whether these are the songs of your youth, the tunes you’ve heard in some of your favourite tv shows and movies, or you are hearing them for the first time in the theatre—everyone will be in their seats tapping their feet and snapping their fingers.

Beautiful – The Carole King Musical continues at the National Arts Centre until Sunday, January 6th. Shows are Wednesday to Friday at 8pm, Saturday at 2pm and 8pm and Sunday at 1:30pm and 7:30pm. Tickets range between $91 to $169. The show runs about 2 hours and 20 minutes with intermission.