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Beautiful- The Carole King Musical

Before Tuesday night, I didn’t know anything about Carole King besides her cameo on Gilmore Girls and a faint childhood memory of her songs on my mother’s easy listening station. When my husband and I walked into the Saenger Theatre for Beautiful- The Carole King Musical, we approached with hesitation. Our eyes darted across the foyer as we independently reached the same conclusion: this was our parents’ crowd. We were the youngest people in the auditorium by a good 25 years.

Beautiful the Musical JULIA KNITEL (Carole King) Erika Olsen (Cynthia Weil) Ben Fankhauser (Barry Mann) Curt Bouril (Don Kirshner) Liam Tobin (Gerry Goffin) Suzanne Grodner (Genie Klein)

Beautiful the Musical JULIA KNITEL (Carole King) (Photos by: Joan Marcus)

We ordered large cocktails, anticipating our boredom and regret. We felt awful when we made an elderly couple stand so we could get to our mid-section seats and later debated the best mathematical formula for determining the least disruptive route from our seats to the exit based on the number and age of people sitting on either side of us. (I still maintain that the highest age of any individual overrides the overall average age of the aggregate group.) By the end of the show, the debate was moot because everyone was on their feet for a lengthy and well-deserved standing ovation for the cast. Beautiful- The Carole King Musical was energetic, undeniably fun, and deeply emotional.

The show blurred the line between a concert and a musical. While Carole King’s music is warmly familiar, like the aroma of baking cookies in your childhood home, the story of her life is surprisingly complex. You’ll be smiling like a fool one minute only to be moved to tears in the next scene. By the second act, die hard fans seemed to forget that Abby Mueller was an actress playing Carole King and not the legend herself. Random shouts of, “You go girl,” during depictions of key moments of Carole’s life were only eclipsed by the hoots and hollers normally reserved for a rock concert rather than musical theater. (And yes, the audible commentary from the crowd came from 60-somethings, making the experience all the more surreal and enjoyable for the lone Millennials in the crowd.) I’m also embarrassed to say that I almost booo-ed an actor at the curtain call, not as a reflection a poor performance but because I found the man he portrayed to be rather deplorable.

Maybe we didn’t fit in with the Carole King crowd when we first arrived, but we felt right at home by the end of the night. (For any regular FeedithNola readers out there, you better believe I’m teaching Edith how to do The Locomotion.) You can see Beautiful- The Carole King Musical at the Saenger Theatre from now until March 12. Buy your tickets here.

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