From opening curtain to closing bows, the story, the music and the outright production pizazz of Beautiful rock. Instead of four street wise guys flirting with the law, a spunky Brooklyn teenager (whose mother taught her all about music) flirts with an older boy she meets at Queens College. When they discover a mutual aspiration to write top forty songs, a collaboration is born, romance flourishes, and much more ignites. Carole King and Gerry Goffin write a large slice of American popular music from the '50's and '60's on, but the emotional arc of the show rises and falls with King. She's on top of the world, married to Gerry and raising two daughters as they pen hit after hit. But betrayal seeps in and delivers blow after blow. Divorce follows. A despondent King recovers and writes the next chapter of her life, collaborating with fellow musicians, but even more, emerging as a powerful independent artist. The result is six Grammys, including four for Tapestry, and countless other awards. King takes her lofty place among legends of American popular music.
The brilliance of Beautiful is the scope of the material, which captures what's happening in the recording industry during this period. The action pulses at the label in New York where King and Goffin work in the late '50's and '60's, in feverish competition with artists like Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, who write for the same label and pose the biggest threat for the number one spot on the charts. King and Goffin's top hits include So Far Away, Take Good Care of My Baby, Will You Love Me Tomorrow, On Broadway, The Locomotion, and One Fine Day, to set the tone of the play. Their breakthrough hit, Will you Love Me Tomorrow, crowns their success when Carole is seventeen. Performed by the Shirelles', it sparkles as bright as the group's sequined dresses for a show-stopping number in the first act. The second act reflects King's determination to forge her own identity after Goffin leaves, with more hits...It's Too Late, You've Got A Friend, (You Make Me Feel) Like A Natural Woman, and Beautiful. Mann and Weil produce toe-tapping tunes, as well...He's Sure the Boy I Love, On Broadway, Walkin' In the Rain, Uptown and You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin', for more magical performances.
As for birthday joy, Beautiful fit the bill. While the music carries the audience on a wave throbbing with nostalgia, the story renders the heartbeat behind the lyrics. King overcomes personal and professional challenges to emerge a true trailblazer, with more than 400 of her compositions recorded by more than 1,000 artists, resulting in 100 hit singles. Even though she famously said she had no desire to see the play, because it would bring back too many painful memories, Beautiful remains a triumphant celebration of a unique voice. Playbill described her impact best, with the artistic achievement of the Grammy-winning album: "...it was 1971's Tapestry that took King to the pinnacle, speaking personally to her contemporaries and providing a spiritual musical backdrop to the decade."