Beautiful: The Carole King Musical
by Mo Brady
Beautiful is squarely Carole King’s show. Lovingly and adeptly portrayed by Melissa Benoist, the story takes us from her days as a teenage composer in the Midtown’s Brill Building to headlining at Carnegie Hall. But unlike most musicals, Beautiful uses the ensemble to showcase the talents of its protagonist.
As a songwriter, King wrote songs for many 50s and 60s headliners including The Drifters, The Shirelles, Little Eva and The Righteous Brothers. These indelible hits include “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow,” “One Fine Day” and “The Locomotion.” And while King was the genius behind these melodies, it was also the performances of these songs by famous recording artists that made them number one records.
In the crowd-pleasing second half of the show’s first act, many of these are performed in quick succession. King and her fellow songwriters set up the creation of these songs, often singing a simplified opening before handing the reins over to the ensemble to perform them as showstopping hits. And five years into the show’s Broadway run, the ensemble is filled with pristine vocalists who bring this music to life.
In her Broadway debut, Salisha Thomas headlines a stunning rendition of “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow.” Launching centerstage after completing a logic-defying quick change, she takes control of the stage and makes the audience feel at ease. Her shimmering voice and radiant smile make it easy for audiences to see why this song became a staple of the popular music canon.
As the Righteous Brothers, Adam Dietlein and original cast member Kevin Duda perform a spot-on rendition of “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling” that brings the house down. Duda’s soaring tenor voice masterfully navigates the song’s harmonies. Dietlein follows up the song with hilarious performance of guitarist Nick, bringing laughs to the audience before he even utters a word.
Ten of the show’s current ensemble make their Broadway debuts in the show (with five of them veterans of the production’s first national tour). Their exuberance and passion beams from the stage into the audience, bringing the music of Carole King’s extraordinary career to life.