WHEN Kayla Rivera was 11-years-old, she recalls singing to “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” — her favorite Carole King song.
“Something about it had so much soul and I loved it so much,” Ms. Rivera said. “To be able to sing it as Carole King is going to be so meaningful to me for life.”
Ms. Rivera plays the American singer-songwriter in the Atlantis Theatrical Entertainment Group’s production of the Tony, Olivier and Grammy Award-winning musical Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, which goes on stage this month at the Meralco Theater in Pasig City.
Carole King (real name: Carol Klein) wrote hit songs for artists including The Shirelles, The Righteous Brothers, and Aretha Franklin. Her second album Tapestry (1971) sold more than 25 million units worldwide. She was inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990 for her songwriting achievements and was a Kennedy Center Honors recipient in 2015 for her lifetime contribution to American culture through the performing arts. Those are just a couple of the many awards she has received through the years.
During a press conference on June 5 at Discovery Suites in Ortigas, Ms. Rivera recalled how she got to play the role of the living legend.
“When I was here for Side Show, [director] Bobby Garcia asked me to learn a couple of songs. And then I recorded a video of me performing them and then he had to send it to the licensing [team] of Beautiful,” Ms. Rivera told members of the press.
“I had to do my research and do my best in bringing that character to life,” Ms. Rivera said, saying that she watched King’s interviews, listened to her music and found her own voice for the songs as part of preparation for the role. “Not only is her music so amazing. But her as a person. And I think that’s why her music is so relatable.”
“As much as it’s (the musical) definitely a celebration of music, Beautiful really is a celebration of women,” said Mikkie Bradshaw-Volante who plays Cynthia Weil, Carole’s friend and rival. “She started writing music at a time when the music industry was dominated by men.”
THE STORY BEHIND THE MUSIC
Written by Douglas McGrath, the musical follows the journey of the young Carole King’s from schoolgirl to hitmaker. It includes from her relationship with song-writing partner and husband Gerry Goffin, their friendship and rivalry with song-writing duo Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, and her rise to fame from songwriter to stage performer.
“I think when you do jukebox musicals and it’s about the music, that makes your job so much easier, because it doesn’t become about trying to fit the story around the music, or trying to fit the music into the story, it becomes the story of the music,” Ms. Bradshaw-Volante said.
Directed by Bobby Garcia, the musical features King’s classics such as “You’ve Got a Friend,” “One Fine Day,” “So Far Away,” “Up on the Roof,” “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling,” and, of course, “Natural Woman.”
“Music is universal and [it’s] something that connects us. And when you hear these songs, it brings you right back to that time when you first heard them and how you grew up with it,” said Nick Varricchio who plays King’s husband and writing partner Gerry Goffin.
Also in the cast are Gab Pangilinan, Jill Peña, Teetin Villanueva, and Maronne Cruz who play the members of the Shirelles; Tim Pavino, Arman Ferrer, Jep Go, and Markus Mann who play the members of The Drifters; Nelsito Gomez will tackle a number of roles including that of singer Neil Sedaka; Rhenwyn Gabalonzo will play one of the Righteous Brothers; Jamie Wilson takes on the role of music publisher Don Kirshner; and Carla Guevara-Laforteza plays Carol’s mother Genie Klein.
“[The show] takes you on a journey from the ’60s and ’70s. And there’s such a stamp on that style [of music] that we’re putting a huge effort to really take care of it,” said George Schulze who plays Cynthia Weil’s songwriting partner, Barry Mann. “People are going to love these songs. It’s hard not to sing along to them.”
DISCOVERY SUITES X ATLANTIS
To continue offering unique experiences to its guests, Discovery Suites has partnered with Atlantis Theatrical Productions with the Room for More promo where the first 10 guests who book for the promo will be entitled to two premium tickets to Beautiful; while guests checking in until June 16 are entitled to a 20% discount on Beautiful tickets for specific show dates.
Meanwhile, Discovery Suites’ flagship restaurant 22 Prime offers “You’ve Got a Friend” for-sharing platters and a limited edition “A Natural Woman” cocktail. Beautiful ticketholders may claim the complimentary cocktail when they dine from June 14 to July 15. (For more information, visit www.discoverysuites.com/discovery-suites-x-atlantis/.)
Beautiful: The Carole King Musical runs from June 14 to July 7 at the Meralco Theater, Pasig City. For tickets, visit www.ticketworld.com.ph or call 891-9999. — Michelle Anne P. Soliman