What would have happened if the great songwriters of the 1960s– those Brill Building denizens– hadn’t discovered Joe Turner and rock and roll?
What if, instead of stoking the star-maker machinery behind the popular song, they’d followed Rodgers & Hammerstein, Lerner & Loewe, Harold Arlen and their Tin Pan Alley buds, writing for Broadway and knocking out Sinatra singles instead of 45s on Top Forty radio?
We get a taste of that “what if” in the sparkling new musical BEAUTIFUL, now thru Sunday at the Music Hall. Carole King and hubby Gerry Goffin plus fellow 60s songwriting couple Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil are the subjects of this bioplay, which traces the careers of these four songsmiths as they made rock and roll history, one three or four chord anthem at a time.
Of course, King’s career eclipsed them all– she went on from toiling for Don Kirshner in the postage stamp offices at 1650 Broadway to “Tapestry” and a body of work that’s instantly recognizable wherever you go.
Those great songs serve BEAUTIFUL well– it’s chock full of greatest hits, well-performed by Julia Knitel in the title role. Erika Olson and Ben Frankhauser as Weill and Mann offer comic counterpoint to Mr and Mrs Goffin. The fact that they wrote “You’ve Lost That Loving and Feeling” and “We Gotta Get Out of this Place,” both performed in the show, means they were no slouches at the keyboard either.
Liam Tobin‘s Gerry Goffin provides the drama and darkness to this piece, wrenching Knitel’s King thru a minefield of manic depression. Carole went thru alot– and perhaps those experiences informed the songs in “Tapestry” and everything that came after, making her a richer lyricist in the process.
BEAUTIFUL’s production values are first rate and the band really kicks ass.
It’s fun when one of the foursome starts to sing a new song that the other thinks is terrible. That’s when the opening lyrics to “Locomotion” or “On Broadway” hit the stage and a big smile crosses the faces of the assembled boomers.
Yep, it’s beautiful.