By Michelle Anne P. Soliman, Reporter
Beautiful: The Carole King Musical
Presented by AtlantisTwenty
June 14 to July 7
Meralco Theater, Pasig City
THE ORCHESTRA began playing a medley of Carole King songs. First on the lineup was “So Far Away” (this writer’s personal favorite). The singer-songwriter was wearing a long bright pink dress as she sang on the piano. Then, she stopped singing mid-way to do a spiel.
It was not really a concert, but the opening scene of Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, the scene set during the singer-songwriter’s performance at Carnegie Hall in 1971.
Producing plays this year under the sobriquet AtlantisTwenty to mark its 20th year in the business, Atlantis Theatrical Entertainment Group brings the Tony, Olivier, and Grammy Award-winning musical on stage this month at the Meralco Theater in Pasig City.
Written by Douglas McGrath, the musical follows the young Carole King’s journey from schoolgirl to songwriter. She meets her song-writing partner and husband Gerry Goffin, and as their songs become popular, they develop a friendship and rivalry with the song-writing duo Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil. The musical also tackles King’s troubled marriage and the decision that led to her transition from songwriter to performer.
Beautiful makes the audience aware (for those like me who did not know their history despite being familiar with the songs) that Carole King (played by Kayla Rivera), Gerry Goffin (Nick Varricchio), Cynthia Weil (Mikkie Bradshaw-Volante), and Barry Mann (George Schulze) all began their careers in the music industry in the early 1960s by writing songs for artists from across genres.
The relationship of both song-writing duos was competitive professionally. They got along very well despite the challenge in writing the next number one hit. Their dynamic felt more of a friendship than a rivalry.
From the opening scene, Act 1 transitions to the time of young King’s decision to move to 1650 Broadway, which was the epicenter of New York’s music publishing world. Impressed by her songwriting skills, music publisher Don Kirshner helps fulfill her dream and she starts to create chart-topping hits.
Act 1 is light, with audience-pleasing comic lines and song numbers that earned resounding applause and cheers. Many of the songs were performed not by King and Goffin, but by the groups they wrote the songs for including The Shirelles and The Drifters. The atmosphere in Act 2 is more serious as King’s relationship with Goffin struggles. After an emotional scene where King sees Goffin with singer Marilyn Wald, this writer did not expect to cry during the reprise of “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow.”
The songs used during the second half on the show were those written and inspired by the artists’ personal experiences such as “It’s Too Late” and “You’ve Got a Friend.”
Beautiful celebrates artists of ambition and persistence whose songs now belong not only to fellow singers but to everyone.
Ms. Rivera as Carole King was marvelous. Her voice found its own sound when performing King’s songs without resorting to voice mimicry.
Throughout the show, the song performances by various artists were entertaining and nostalgic. My favorite would have to be the performance of “The Locomotion” by Little Eva, an energetic number made more fun by the actors’ bright pink costumes.
I normally cry when I hear nostalgic songs, but this was the first time that I had a big smile on my face while hearing the old songs.
The production’s colorful set filled with retro 1960s colors and patterns, it felt like we were members of a live studio audience at the taping of a TV variety show.
The musical was fast-paced, hilarious, and so enjoyable that I did not notice the passage of time. Towards the end, get up to sing along when the situation permits it. Stand up and dance, if you must.
That night, I left the theater with a gleeful soul.
For tickets to Beautiful, visit www.ticketworld.com.ph or call 891-9999.