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“Beautiful: The Carole King Musical”

***** I must admit that when it was announced that Marriott Theatre would be the first regional theater to produce “Beautiful” The Carole King Musical”, I thought that to be in error. How could a theater-in-the-round put on a play that has New York , offices, clubs, recording studios, apartments, and even more? How could anyone sitting in an audience feel the experience that was felt when this play took over Broadway and won all the Tony Awards? Well, tonight, I was witness to an extraordinary job of direction (Jessica Fisch) and choreography (Christopher Windom) on what one might call a super-set (Andrew Boyce). In fact, one might say that the set changes were as well choreographed as any dance number in any musical. There are no walls. The set pieces must go up the aisles (and down) to reach the stage and or upper floor. These were all done quickly and the show never missed a beat.

When we talk about “beat”, let us talk about this talented cast that will no doubt be in the running for a Jeff Award for Ensemble (no doubt a great number of other awards as well). For those unaware of “Beautiful” it is Carole King’s bio and I must say that Kaitlyn Davis is about as Carole King as you can get without being THE Carole King. She is dynamite with vocal capabilities that will knock your Socks off. Marriott Theatre audiences are familiar with the originator of the role and her sister who did the touring company. The Mueller girls were terrific, and it was hard for me to admit this, but Kaitlyn truly made the role her own!

Speaking of Mueller’s, hats off to brother Andrew who takes on the role of Gerry Goffin with a flair and shows all sides of this man who was Carole’s partner, husband and ex during their years together. The recording studio boss Don Kirshner is played to perfection by Lawrence Grimm. He is the man who put Carole and Gerry together. He also was the influencer and brought Cynthia Weil (deftly handled by Erica Stephan) and writer Barry Mann (played to perfection by Justin Albinder, who is new to our area, but based on what I saw tonight, will be in demand by our many theater companies). These two couples are responsible for a great deal of the music of the time: “So Far Away”, “Oh Carol”,, “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow”, “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling”,  “One Fine Day”(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman”, “You’ve Got A Friend” and of course “Beautiful”. There are many in between. Enough so that one might think they are at a concert or a best of the 60’s..!

I mentioned the ensemble. They are brilliant. First of all, the delightful Janet Ulrich Brooks as Carole’s mother, Genie Klein ( that was the actual family name- King, the stage name), and then the performers who change characters and costumes every few minutes ( or so it seems).Alina Taber, Ben Mayne, Alexis J. Roston , Christian Denzel Buford, Nauqui Macabroad, Yasir Muhammad, Juwon Tyrone Perry ( these gentlemen do the Drifters to perfection), Melanie Brezill, Ariana Burks, Daryn Whitney ( as the Shirelles with Ms Rosten), Adam LaSalle  who along with Ben Mayne do The Righteous Brothers), and Maya Rowe. These are amazing talents who do it all, including helping to change the set and doing so with great style. BRAVO!

The tech side of the production, as usual at Marriott is flawless. Sully Ratke’s costumes, Jesse Klug’s lighting, Michael Daly’s sound, Sally Zack’s props and Ray Sanchez’ wigs. The orchestra , conducted by Christopher Sargent does a great job in making these monumental works of music help tell the story of a young girl with a dream and how her dream comes true. It appears that Marriott, the first regional theater to produce this play has proved why they were first. They made it work!