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An Electrifying and Soulful Trip Down Memory Lane

Beautiful – The Carol King Musical

Kennedy Center

December 17, 2021

By: Jordan Wright

Four Friends

Big News: Sony Pictures has announced that the film adaption of Beautiful will be produced by Tom Hanks, Gary Goetzman and Paul Blake.  

Where were you when you first heard The Righteous Brothers sing “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling” or “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow” by The Shirelles?  Maybe you were dancing cheek-to-cheek with the one you loved.  Or maybe you were groovin’ to “Locomotion” by Little Eva or “Up on the Roof” by The Drifters – all these songs written by Brooklyn-born Carole King and her then husband, Gerry Goffin.  Working for music producer Don Kirshner, known as “The Man with the Golden Ear”, their partnership produced hit after hit keeping them on the pop charts throughout the 60’s. 

During their early career lyricist Gerry and the precociously talented composer Carole churned out hits at Aldon Music, a music publishing house and hit factory in New York’s Brill Building, where they worked side-by-side in friendly competition with fellow hitmakers, Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann.

Beautiful tells the story of their romance, marriage and tumultuous breakup and chronicles their struggles and successes, ending with Carole’s solo career, which broke the pop mold with the release of her first album – the four-time Grammy Award-winning, “Tapestry”.

This latest national tour opens with Carole on piano at Carnegie Hall.  She is singing “So Far Away”, accompanying herself and showing confidence with her trademark masses of wavy, golden hair and gowned in a blue-flowered maxi dress.  

It was not always so for the shy, yet ambitious, teen who wrote songs for the top Black artists of that era. The story then takes us back to the beginning of Carole’s career, when as a whip-smart sixteen-year old Carole bucked her Jewish mother, Genie, to peddle her tunes in the Big Apple where she has an auspicious meeting with Kirshner.

A medley of hits from the 50’s includes some of the greatest and most memorable hits from that era – “Poison Ivy”. “Love Potion #9”, “Yakety Yak” and “One Fine Day” to name just a few. The Drifters make an appearance dressed in their flashy sharkskin suits and skinny ties and The Shirelles in their beaded gowns performing their greatest hits.  Little Eva who was plucked from obscurity (she was Carole and Gerry’s babysitter) and the fictitious Janelle Woods, a glamorous pop singer who becomes Gerry’s extramarital lover.

In this musical evolution of Carole’s life there are 27 numbers backed by a 6-piece band, which sounds like an entire orchestra. That’s just fine as you’ll most likely be singing along under your mask, tapping your toes and recalling your first dance, first kiss or heaven forbid your first breakup.  For me the goosebumps kicked in with “Some Kind of Wonderful”. Gerry and Carole’s first duet, and The Righteous Brothers big number, “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling”.

Scenic Designer Derek McLane captures the mood with a wall of instruments and mid-century modern furniture in Carole’s home and office. Lighting Designer Peter Kaczorowski tricks out the musical numbers with hundreds of neon lights.

Sara Sheperd clones Carole as sincerely as humanly possible, especially letting loose her powerhouse voice on her biggest hits – “Natural Woman” later covered by Aretha Franklin and Mary K. Blige – and “Beautiful”.   The musical reflects Carole’s coming of age as an independent composer and soloist who emerged from pain and loss to find joy and recognition as an artist in her own right.

A must see musical!!!

Starring Sara Sheperd as Carole King; James D. Gish as Gerry; Matt Loehr as Don Kirshner; Sara King as Cynthia Weil; Rachel Coloff as Genie Klein; and Ryan Farnsworth as Barry Mann.

Book by Doug Mcgrath; Words and Music by Gerry Goffin & Carole King and Barry Mann & Cynthia Weil; Sound Design by Brian Ronan; Costume Design by Alejo Vietti.

Through January 2, 2022 at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, 2700 F Street, NW, Washington, DC.  For tickets and information visit

Carnegie Hall

The Drifters

The Shirelles

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