Is it any good?
This is a musical about a slice of the life of Carole King from her first attempts at songwriting to the release of her massive hit album Tapestry. It is driven by her songwriting and romantic partnership with Gerry Goffin and professional rivalry with songwriters Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil. It’s about a woman finding her courage and her voice who just happened to become the most successful female singer/songwriter ever.
It’s a bit weird. It shouldn’t work. The show is about Carole King, but she didn’t sing many of her most famous songs, especially during this period in her life. So the lead actress doesn’t sing quite as much as one might expect. Instead, we have her start songs that transition to the voices of the Drifters or the Shirelles or the Chiffons. It’s also concerned with her rivalry with Barry Mann so some of the most memorable songs in the show are not even hers. Further, many of the songs are abridged so the show doesn’t run 4 hours long. It’s also not nearly as devastatingly dramatic as other biographical shows. She doesn’t have the tragedy of the Four Seasons or Jonathan Larson or Evita Peron. She had suffered greatly for her craft and her love, but not on the same magnitude.
And yet it’s all pulled together by some extremely charismatic performers and, of course, the songs of the greatest female songwriter of all time. It works because her stuff works so well. King’s music has so much drama in itself that it bleeds out into everything else. And when you see where some of this comes from, for whom she wrote “Too Late” and “So Far Away” it just grabs you.
Our production at the Cadillac Palace Theater in Chicago was excellent. The lead was quite magnificent actually. It’s always refreshing to hear a voice on stage that isn’t that default belt. I really got lost in Carole King’s story and Sarah Bockel should take all the credit in that. You can see her insecurities on display even while she writes some of the most beautiful and touching melodies of all time. Ms. Bockel is a talented ACTRESS, not caricature artist. This is a beautiful interpretation of the character, rather than some weak pantomime. Kudos!
The rest of the cast was entertaining, though the book leaves them all a bit less fleshed out than Carole. They all had nice voices and the actor playing Gerry Goffin deserves credit for not letting you hate him THAT much despite all that transpires in the show. I enjoyed Barry Mann especially, but Cynthia Weil was nice too.
Overall very much worth seeing. If you know any of these songs, you’ll just be rapt in attention as you sink into your seat and watch and listen to something that is simply… beautiful.