On June 15, as “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical” celebrated its 1,000th performance on Broadway, New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio declared the day “Carole King Musical Day.” Now Broadway San Diego is bringing the award-winning show about the iconic singer/songwriter to the Civic Theatre for eight performances, Aug. 2-7, 2016.
“Beautiful” tells the story of the Brooklyn teenager who became an international superstar. In 1960, at age 17, Carol Joan Klein (already renamed Carole King) and her husband, Gerry Goffin, had their first chart-topping song with “Will You Love Me Tomorrow?” They followed it up with other hits like “Up on the Roof” and “One Fine Day,” forming a close friendship with another hot songwriter couple, Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil (“You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling,” “We Gotta Get Out of This Place”). By the end of the ’60s, Carole’s fast-lane to success had dead-ended, her marriage had fallen apart, and she had to struggle to find her own way. And she did, when she left for Los Angeles, started singing and recorded her 1971 solo album “Tapestry,” one of the best-selling albums of all time.
That’s the story of “Beautiful,” a touching tale with an incredible score full of hits by both songwriting couples. Playing the lead on the national tour is Abby Mueller, who comes to the show with a story of her own: she’s not the first Mueller to star in “Beautiful;” her sister, Jessie Mueller, originated the role of Carole King on Broadway, and won a Tony for it.
Abby, fresh from appearing in the Broadway hit “Kinky Boots,” comes from a family of performers — actor parents, two actor brothers (one of them Abby’s twin), and of course, Jessie — and she and the touring production have received great reviews during their recent month-long stay at the Pantages Theatre in Los Angeles.
“We had a blast in LA, sold-out performances — they were just eating it up!” said Suzanne Grodner, who plays Carole’s mom, Genie Klein. She’s had the experience of performing with all three Carole Kings: Jessie Mueller and her replacement, Chilina Kennedy, on Broadway, and now Abby Mueller on tour. “Everyone’s got their own timing and emotional quality, but they’ve each been incredible to work with,” she said.
Interestingly, Grodner, who was last seen in San Diego in 2011, in a musical version of Jane Austen’s “Emma” at the Old Globe, only gets to sing in the curtain call; Genie is purely an acting role, she explained. “She’s part of the arc of Carole’s journey, an aspiring playwright who believes in her daughter’s talent from Day 1, but tries to keep her from pursuing her songwriter dreams because she wants to spare her the kind of disappointments she’s had. And then she becomes Carole’s biggest cheerleader.”
There’s plenty to cheer for in “Beautiful.” It’s still playing on Broadway, it’s a hit in London, and there’s a waitlist for tickets in Sydney, Australia, when the show opens there in September.
— IF YOU GO: “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical,” plays Aug. 2-7 at San Diego Civic Theatre, 3rd and B St., downtown San diego. Tickets: $20-$165. (619) 570-1100. broadwaysd.com