The enduring power of ‘Beautiful: The Carole King Musical’

Sara Sheperd plays Carole King in the national tour of "Beautiful: The Carole King Musical" stopping at the Fox Theatre May 20 to May 22, 2022. CONTRIBUTED

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Sara Sheperd plays Carole King in the national tour of "Beautiful: The Carole King Musical" stopping at the Fox Theatre May 20 to May 22, 2022. CONTRIBUTED

Its second trip to the Fox Theatre comes May 20-22.

It’s never too late to appreciate the enduring power of Carole King’s music, which provides the foundation for “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical,” returning to the Fox Theater May 20-22.

The musical first came to Atlanta in 2016 to positive reviews and a packed Fox Theatre on multiple dates. “The show will leave you with a feeling of uplift — it is, after all, a musical full of pop songs. But more befitting King’s musical legacy, it will prompt you to pause and ponder while clapping your hands,” wrote then-AJC music writer Melissa Ruggieri at the time.

It is indeed a 28-song jukebox musical highlighting classics she wrote as well as songs she performed herself. But it also covers King’s life from a teenager wanting to write songs growing up in Brooklyn to marrying fellow songwriter Gerry Goffin and becoming one of pop music’s most revered songwriters. She later recorded the 1971 album “Tapestry” featuring classics like “It’s Too Late,” “So Far Away” and “I Feel the Earth Move.”

The tour has traveled to Asia and Europe and is now on its third run stateside.

“Its truly unbelievable,” said Marc Bruni, who directed the Broadway version that ran from 2014 to 2019. “It’s a tribute to the durability of this story and these songs. It feels every bit as exciting and joyous as when we first opened.”

He said what makes the project fascinating to many people is King’s songwriting prowess beyond the songs she performed herself. She was part of the Brill Building songwriting team in the early 1960s that pumped out a raft of timeless and varied hits for other groups such as the Drifters (”Some Kind of Wonderful”), the Chiffons (”One Fine Day”), the Shirelles (”Will You Love Me Tomorrow”) and Little Eva (”The Loco-Motion”).

“It captures the excitement of coming up with a song for the first time and the writing process,” Bruni said. “There’s also the backdrop of a tumultuous relationship [between King and Goffin] and what happens when that doesn’t work out. How do you pick up the pieces and move on? She came back from adversity and came back stronger.”

While King was already a revered figure in the pop music world by the time “Beautiful” hit Broadway in 2014, the musical itself has only burnished her reputation that much more among a wider populace and may have contributed to her Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction as an artist in 2021. (She was inducted as a songwriter back in 1990.)

And while Baby Boomers may have had the “Tapestry” LP on high rotation in the early 1970s in their college dorm rooms, younger generations just appreciate the timeless hooks and lyrical magic of King’s songs. “Her music keys into the universality of emotion,” Bruni said. “Her songs feel fresh every time you hear them. I’ve seen this show probably 500 times and I am not sick of these songs.”

King was not actively involved in the musical’s creation but the producers needed her approval. When she first watched a read-through of the script, she left after intermission when in the musical she finds out her husband had cheated on her. “She felt too emotional to watch,” Bruni said. “The producers thought she was going to nix the entire project.”

She ultimately said she was fine. Eventually, she watched the entire musical.

“Part of what makes her iconic is her accessibility to her own emotional life in her concert work,” Bruni said. “She is so relatable and open about her difficult times in her life. She is now a great supporter of the show.”

The current actress who plays King in “Beautiful” Sara Sheperd was the understudy during the Broadway run.

“It’s thrilling to see her take the mantle,” Bruni said. “She’s absolutely knocking them dead in the aisles.”

One former Georgia resident is part of the crew: Teshomech Olenja, who grew up in Albany and Atlanta. She plays one of five different roles depending on the day, so one day she might be a Shirelle singing “Will You Still Love Me” and on another day she’s the “other” woman who slept with King’s husband and croons the Monkees classic “Pleasant Valley Sunday.”

“I’m having so much fun,” said the 28-year-old. “Going in, I only knew of Carole King. I then learned she wrote Aretha Franklin’s “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” and found her story to be incredible. She is one of the greatest songwriters of all time.”

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Georgia native Teshomech is part of the cast of "Beautiful: The Carole King Musical" at the Fox Theatre May 20-22, 2022. PUBLICITY PHOTO

Credit: PUBLC

Georgia native Teshomech is part of the cast of "Beautiful: The Carole King Musical" at the Fox Theatre May 20-22, 2022. PUBLICITY PHOTO

Credit: PUBLC

caption arrowCaption
Georgia native Teshomech is part of the cast of "Beautiful: The Carole King Musical" at the Fox Theatre May 20-22, 2022. PUBLICITY PHOTO

Credit: PUBLC

Credit: PUBLC


IF YOU GO

“Beautiful: The Carole King Musical”

8 p.m. May 20; 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. May 21; 1 p.m. and 6 :30 p.m. May 22. $34-$129. The Fox Theatre, 660 Peachtree St. NE, Atlanta. foxtheatre.org.

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