BEAUTIFUL: THE CAROLE KING MUSICAL by King & Gerry Goffin, Barry Mann & Cynthia Weil, and Douglas McGrath (Mirvish). At the Ed Mirvish Theatre (244 Victoria). Runs to September 3. $50-$149. 416-872-1212. mirvish.com.
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There are so many familiar songs in Beautiful: The Carole King Musical that the actors could merely sing a concert of them and most audiences would leave happy.
But as shaped by writer Douglas McGrath, King’s life story has a rich dramatic arc that’s equally appealing: she began selling songs in her teens; met her future husband and songwriting collaborator Gerry Goffin, in college, got pregnant and married at 17; put up with his affairs and unstable behaviour until they separated; and finally, after years of writing songs for others to sing, came into her own as an independent woman and singer/songwriter with the classic album Tapestry.
As this fine Broadway touring production shows, it’s affecting material, letting you tap your toes one minute and dab your eyes the next.
Canadian Chilina Kennedy, who played the role for two years on Broadway, has got King’s nasally voice down pat, but more importantly captures her journey from self-effacing girl to self-confident woman. She’s well matched by fellow Canuck Liam Tobin’s glamorous, haunted Goffin.
Ben Fankhauser and Erika Olson provide lots of comic contrast as King and Goffin’s friends, the songwriting couple Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil.
While Derek McLane’s clever scenic design in the first act has been modified for this tour, it still allows for some stunning moments when King and Goffin’s songs get performed by the excellent ensemble with lots of theatrical surprises.