Beautiful, The Carole King Musical, Hennepin Theatre Trust performing at the Orpheum

Abby Mueller in Beautiful, The Carole King Musical. Photo by Joan Marcus.

Abby Mueller in Beautiful, The Carole King Musical. Photo by Joan Marcus.

Sh. The dyspeptic Critic is here, but I think he’s asleep. Let’s not wake him. He has a distressing tendency to belch out his poisonous opinions with room-clearing fervor. Let’s talk softly.

Carole King‘s 70s album Tapestries was the soundtrack of my lovely play-going companion’s life. They meant a lot her (and rather less to me, but you don’t want to hear about this). The material is gorgeous and beautifully rendered in Beautiful, The Carole King Musical (at the Orpheum, through Nov 29; a somewhat unusual 2 week run).

Indeed, the songs are marvelous: “So Far Away,” “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow,” “You’ve Got A Friend,” my personal fave “Do The Locomotion,” among many many others.

The Beautiful cast does the music proud: Abby Mueller as Carole (more on her in a moment), Becky Gulsvig, Ben Fankhauser, Liam Tolbin, the Drifter dudes, the Shirelle gals, and (my fave) the Righteous Brothers. Their performances are spot on and herein will you find a reason to shell out the large dollars for this show. They are, to a person, terrific.

Now, good as the King canon is, there’s not enough for a full musical. So, wisely, the show-makers (the main suspects here are director Marc Bruni and bookist Douglas McGrath) decided to fold the work of Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann (“Walking In The Rain,” “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling,” etc) into Beautiful. This works wonderfully. The show’s plot revolves nicely around a loving competition between Weil/Mann and King and her husband/lyricist Gerry Goffin. First we see the songs being composed. Then Beautiful segues into full blown performances, by the Shirelles, the Drifters, Neil Sedaka, et al.  We see the breakup of the King/Goffin mar–

The scenes are trite!

Uh-oh. Hand me that paper bag.

Predictable! Mud-puddle shallow! Mmmmmmmmmmmmmm…

There. Sit. Stay.

I – and I feel sure the Critic would agree with me on this – adored Abby Mueller as King. Schlumpy, frumpy and pleasingly plump, yes, but also charming, winsome and breath-takingly passionate. She gives an amazing performance. And here’s the main reason to love her: her voice. She sings the King songs with a focused power and unmatched intensity. Brava.

So: if you like Carole King’s work (and who doesn’t), if you have an appreciation for Brill Building music, with all its craft-driven energy, then see Beautiful. The show perfectly captures a piece of the American experience.

I’ve done several Orpheum reviews now without complaining about the seating. But given what Hennepin Theatre Trust charges for these (excellent) shows, I can no longer let it go by: the seating in the Orpheum would make Delta Airlines envious. As I said to the woman sitting next to me, “When the show’s over I feel like we should be in New York.”

John Olive is a writer living in Minneapolis. His book Tell Me A Story In The Dark has recently been published. He has just completed a YA novel, Deep River. Art Dog will be produced shortly at Salt Lake Acting Co. His screenplay A Slaying Song Tonight has been optioned.

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