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Review: BEAUTIFUL THE CAROLE KING MUSICAL at Marriott Theatre, Lincolnshire IL

The current production at the Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire is Beautiful, the Carole King Musical. This is more than a jukebox musical. It tells the amazing story of one of the greatest songwriters of the 20th Century and how her story evolved. It begins with Carole’s June 1971 concert at Carnegie Hall. This was during the same time frame that her iconic Tapestry album was climbing the charts. The flashback begins. She was 16 and studying at Queens College (she skipped a few grades). Carole is brilliantly portrayed by Kaitlyn Davis (her Marriott debut but not her first portrayal of Carole). Carole’s mother, Genie (Janet Ulrich Brooks in a perfect portrayal) is against Carole wanting to be a songwriter. At Queen’s College, Carole meets Gerry Goffin (Andrew Mueller in a heartfelt performance), a chemistry student who really wants to be a lyricist. They end up collaborating together and their songs begin to take off with the help of soon- to- be music mogul Don “Donnie” Kirschner (Lawrence Grimm). When Carole tells Gerry she is pregnant, they get married.  As their songs continue to hit the charts, they move into their own office at 1650 Broadway. They meet 2 other aspiring songwriters, Cynthia Weil (Erica Stephan who captures Cynthia’s personality) and Barry Mann (Justin Albinder in his Marriott debut). Sadly, Cynthia passed away June 1, 2023. The 2 couples have a friendly competition to see whose song will reach number 1 first but are the best of friends. Both couples have songs which are performed by the big groups of the day: the Shirelles, the Drifters, the Righteous Brothers, the Monkees and Carole and Gerry’s babysitter, Little Eva. Gerry eventually has a breakdown. He and Carole decide to part ways while Barry and Cynthia decide to get married. Carole goes to Los Angeles with her 2 daughters for a vacation and discovers how much she likes L.A. and decides to move there and live in Laurel Canyon, the home for many up and coming musical artists. Saying goodbye to Cynthia, Barry and Donnie, Carole performs a song for them which sums up their relationship: You’ve Got a Friend. Once in L.A., Carole is now recording her Tapestry album. The final song is the hardest for her to record. She wrote it with Gerry and she is afraid of the feelings that might be stirred up. Her producer, Lou Adler (Ben Mayne) persuades her to record Natural Woman. Flash forward to the opening of her show at Carnegie Hall. Gerry visits Carole backstage before she goes on and gives her a good luck gift: an apology for all the ways he hurt her. He tells her how proud he is of her. She goes on stage, sits at the piano and plays Beautiful. We feel her joy.

First time Marriott director Jessica Fisch and this ensemble seamlessly tell Carole’s story to the fullest extent. The orchestra, under the direction of Christopher Sargent, was the backbone to this music.  Walking into the Marriott Theatre the first thing I noticed was the stage was designed in the shape and look of an LP. Above the stage were keyboards. Scenic designer Andrew Boyce really gives the feel of songwriting offices, a home in Brooklyn and a performance hall.  The simplicity of the design is very intimate.

This is a great story about a woman who followed her dreams. There were some rough spots along the way but ultimately great success. She knew the journey would require help. That’s where family and friends come in. Sit back, listen to the soundtrack of our life and enjoy the journey. Marriott provides the vehicle. It’s a great ride.