The joke is on you if you passed up the chance to see “Beautiful - The Carole King Musical” at the Ellen Eccles Theatre last week. You missed the hottest touring show to hit Cache Valley in years.
“Beautiful” is a biographical juke-box musical highlighting the early career of singer/songwriter Carole King. The show’s score includes some of the best Top-40 chart hits of the 1960s and 1970s penned by King and her husband/collaborator Gerry Goffin and their songwriting rivals Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann.
The show debuted on Broadway to rave reviews in 2014 and touring productions of “Beautiful” were launched just a year later.
Luckily, the local CacheARTS organization provides an opportunity for us to see fresh from Broadway productions like this one. In recent years, CacheARTS has imported touring shows of “A Chorus Line,” “West Side Story,” “The Addams Family” and “Something’s Rotten.” This time out, CacheARTS director Wendi Hassan booked a real smash.
“Beautiful” absolutely sizzled, from start to finish. The show was cleverly composed of dramatic vignettes of milestones in King’s life alternating with chorus members recreating performances of classic hits by Golden Era pop artists like The Drifters, The Shirelles, Janelle Wood, Little Eva and The Righteous Brothers. The acting was top-notch throughout the show and the singing was out-of-this-world.
Broadway veteran Kennedy Caughell was perfect in the show’s title role. Her performance touchingly recaptured the ups and downs of King’s career, especially the heartbreak of stereotypical show biz marital difficulties. In the second act, however, Ms. Caughell got the opportunity to really throw back her shoulders and sing the hits from King’s Iconic 1970’s album Tapestry. She did so beautifully and in a voice that was reminiscent of King’s but much stronger.
The same could honestly be said for most of the performers in “Beautiful.” While the show’s chorus members successfully recalled the singing and dancing styles of groups like The Drifters and The Shirelles, their voices were almost uniformly better than those original artists. Combined with gorgeous costumes and terrific lighting effects, their vocal talents made the show’s production numbers sensational.
It might be easy to dismiss “Beautiful – The Carole King Musical” as a mere nostalgia overdose for theater lovers who can still recall the music scenes of the 1960s and 1970s. But the Cache Valley audiences who gave this show standing ovations two nights in a row last week didn’t seem to think so.
I also suspect that none of those audience members will pass up the chance to see the next Broadway touring show that CacheARTS brings to Logan.