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Beautiful: The Carole King Musical

4 STARS ****

Beautiful is a musical that expresses the power of music to communicate emotions, trials, tribulations, and, above all, love. With perfect lyrics, harmony, instrumental sounds, and vocals, music can evoke both good and bad memories. One woman contributed to the soundtrack of a generation with a collection of songs that became instant classics and timeless hits. Her music is truly one of a kind, bringing to life the fascinating journey of one of the greatest songwriters and performers in musical history - Carole King. Her rise to stardom is breathtaking, heartwarming, joyous, and heartbreaking, making Beautiful, The Carole King Musical one spectacular night of musical theater. The musical tells the inspiring story of Carole King's early life and career. It follows the journey of a teenage girl who fights her way into the record business and discovers that the musical notes of life don't always flow as planned. The play is an exhilaratingly joyous, feel-good story that encourages us to find beauty in ourselves. The show begins with Carole singing " So Far Away " at Carnegie Hall in 1971 and flashes back to sixteen-year-old Carole telling her mother she wants to go to Manhattan to sell her song. Born and raised in Brooklyn, Carole Klein wrote her first hit song, "It Might As Well Rain Until September," which Bobby Vee recorded. King meets Gerry at Queens College, and the dynamic songwriting duo of Goffin and King began their historical songwriting career. They also collaborated in love, and Carole got pregnant, prompting marriage. With Goffin writing the lyrics and King the music, they are known for writing many of the top soundtrack hits of the 1960s, which included "Up on The Roof" by The Drifters, "You've Lost That Loving Feeling" by The Righteous Brothers, "Will You Love Me Tomorrow" by The Shirelles, "The Loco-Motion" by Little Eva, "One Fine Day" for the Chiffons, "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman" for Aretha Franklin, and many others songs, that changed the music world.  

King and Goffin's success was not solely due to their efforts. They had a competitive friendship with another hit songwriting team, Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil. With the help of music publisher, producer, and talent manager Don Kirshner (known as The Man With the Golden Ear), they wrote songs that transformed the music world. The play featured some fantastic '60s groups. The gentlemen (Christian Denzel Bufford, Naiqui Macabroad, Yasir Muhammad, and Juwon Tyrel Perry) who played The Drifters and sang the George Benson song "On Broadway" were exceptional. Melanie Brezill, Daryn Whitney Harrell, Ariana Burks, Maya Rowe, and the ensemble singers delivered flawless performances and immaculate dance moves. Marriott Theatre's production of Beautiful, starring Kaitlyn Davis, Andrew Mueller, Erica Stepan, and Justin Albinder, is phenomenal. Mueller, Stephan, and Albinder, who played  Gerry Goffin, Cynthia Weil, and Barry Mann, respectively, performed outstandingly — providing the core of a masterpiece performance full of joy, excitement, and some darn good old-fashioned '60s singing. Still, this night belonged to Kaitlyn Davis, who played King. She was phenomenal and had that quirky personality and unique King vocals. She resembles King and has a similar childhood. Davis started an education degree at 16 and is a pianist and songwriter. Her  Marriott Theatre debut role as King was immaculate, keeping the play one of my old-time favorites.

The cast includes super-talented actors Janet Ulrich Brooks, Alexis J Roston, who did a mind-blowing Billie Holiday performance at Mercury Theater Chicago presents Lady Day at Emerson's Bar & Grill, and Lawrence Grimm, and a supporting cast that shines through their fantastic singing and dancing, bringing Carole King's inspiring story to life in a compelling way.  Directed by Jessica Fisch and choreographed by Christopher Windom, the cast delivers a superb performance that will leave you feeling uplifted and inspired. It's a must-see show for anyone who loves music and appreciates the power of storytelling. It's no wonder my love for seeing musicals at Marriott Theatre has grown into a full-blown love affair."  In the second act, we witness the beginning of the dynamic songwriting duo's marriage falling apart after Gerry has several affairs with other singers. Eventually, this leads to their divorce. After the divorce, King tells Don, Cynthia, and Barry she is moving to Laurel Canyon in Los Angeles with her two daughters. Davis has the audience in tears singing "You Got a Friend," she thrills the audience with "You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman and Beautiful." King, who has made 25 solo albums and wrote or co-wrote 118 pop hits on the Billboard Hot 100, was hesitant to perform live. Still, she reinvigorated her career by singing at the Bitter End nightclub. After an unsuccessful  album, she hit gold with Tapestry, which held the No.1 spot for 15 consecutive weeks with her hit single "It's Too Late."