Jul 2, 2019

It’s easy to like Beautiful: The Carole King Musical.

After all, the jukebox musical is obviously filled with songs by the iconic singer-songwriter Carole King, considered to be one of the most successful female songwriters in America with hundreds of her hits making it to the Billboard Hot 100 throughout her career.

It has been running on Broadway for five years now, and if that’s not a sign of how enjoyable it is as a show, I don’t know what else would be.

It’s a straightforward, linear telling of the early life and career of Carole King, using songs written by her, and her contemporaries and peers.

Carole (Kayla Rivera), her best friend Betty (Maronne Cruz), and mother Genie (Carla Laforteza-Guevarra), watching Neil Sedaka (Nelsito Gomez) on the television

The show is definitely a trip down memory lane, thanks not only to the music, but also to the set and the costumes. The set is not as elaborate as the Broadway original, but Atlantis’ version (by Faust Peneyra) still captures the color and glitz of the era, especially during the scenes in 1650 Broadway and the performance “cutscenes” of the popular groups and artists of the time (The Shirelles, the Drifters, The Righteous Brothers, and Little Eva).

The costumes (by Raven Ong) in particular serve as the measure of time within the play. Carole, for example, is seen changing from the straight, shapeless dresses of the early 60s, to cigarette pants, to the wide leg jeans iconic of the 70s. (And speaking of Little Eva—her costume change for “The Locomotion” is a personal highlight for me.)

Gab Pangilinan plays the lead singer of The Shirelles
Little Eva (Teetin Villanueva) 

The book has been criticized for a number of reasons, including some unconvincing or weak characterizations, which is some pretty strong assessment for a play. Thankfully the music and the cast makes up for it. Beautiful, as beautiful as it was, perhaps is more of a showcase than a bio-musical. You’ll know with each timeless hit that plays (the audience reaction to each song is the key indicator).

You can’t even imagine how many numbers I’ve heard people mumble-singing around me. I would be bothered, but the songs are so good and I’m far too amused with the audience reaction to actually feel bad.

But what’s interesting about Beautiful for me happens as early as the first few minutes of the play, and stay throughout the play’s two and a half hour run: As a story about someone as noteworthy in the industry as King, the musical puts a spotlight on women.

Don Kirshner (Jamie Wilson), Barry Mann (George Schulze), Carole King (Kayla Rivera), and Cynthia Weil (Mikkie Bradshaw-Volante)

It’s rather empowering to see many of the main, strong characters in the play be women. Carole, for one, had gone against the expectations of women during her time, pursuing a career in music instead of becoming a teacher or housewife. Cynthia Weil’s character has shown this as well. It’s also pretty refreshing to see that there are supportive male characters, who despite the time period, don’t bring down these women of talent.

Overall it’s a feel-good production that takes you back in time and reminds you of those good ol’ days. But unlike memories that fade quickly, Beautiful leaves you with something that lasts far longer—the music. The very thing Carole King has gifted us all with. You’ll come out of the theater humming, maybe dancing, well into a new week.

Beautiful: The Carole King Musical runs until Jul. 7 at the Meralco Theater, Pasig. For tickets, visit Ticketworld.

 

Read more:

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Theater notes: “Ang Huling El Bimbo” is an eye-opening trip

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TAGS: atlantis atlantis productions beautiful musical beautiful: the carole king musical carole king Musical play