Beautiful – The Carole King Musical at Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall

I am a lover of live theater and of Broadway.   I have been lucky to see some of the great shows in the past 20 years on Broadway including “Beautiful”.  My friend and I saw it in 2015, it was the hot ticket on Broadway.  I had no pre-conceived ideas about it.   Being a child of the 70’s, I owned “Tapestry” (didn’t everybody?).  I burned the grooves out of that vinyl.  What I didn’t know was Carole King had written some of my favorite songs like The Monkees hit, “Pleasant Valley Sunday” and I really didn’t know anything about her early years. Just to show how much Carole and Gerry were respected in the music biz – In 1963, John Lennon said he wanted “McCartney- Lennon to be the Goffin-King of the UK”! 


“Beautiful” takes you on a trip to the early days of American rock and pop songs that have turned out to be some of our national treasures.  I was thrilled to review the touring company of “Beautiful” coming to the Van Wezel.   Broadway touring shows are a great way to see the show if you can’t make it to the Big Apple. Van Wezel has been doing a great job over the years hosting some of the biggest Broadway shows right in our own backyard. 

The show opens with Carole King being played by Sara Sheperd singing “So Far Away” from Tapestry.  Sheperd has a great voice to play Carole. The story then takes us back in time to the 50’s, Brooklyn and a 16 year- old Carole who wants to write songs.  She trudges to the city playing her tunes for a young Donny Kirschner played by Matt Loehr, who brings a comic edge the part. Kirschner launched many songwriters careers and put Carole together with a young man name Gerry Goffin played by James D. Gish to become songwriting partners.  They became lovers, pregnant and got married.  At the same time they met a couple of songwriters named Cynthia Weil played by Sara King and Barry Mann played by Ryan Farnsworth. I loved the friendship between these characters. It’s amazing that the two couples have written so many hits in the American song catalog.


The performances of The Drifters and Shirelles are great musical moments in the show along with The Righteous Brothers and a cameo by Neil Sedaka.  The ensemble cast does a great job of bringing us into the late 60’s with “Pleasant Valley Sunday” and “We Gotta Get Outta This Place”.  As King and Goffins’ relationship deteriorates, she begins to write on her own.  She decides to take a chance on L.A. and goes there to work with prominent producer Lou Alder and records “Tapestry”.  The rest as they say is history. 

There is so much more to this show but I don’t want to give it all away. Of course, the band is top-notch as well as all the singers. It has humor, warmth and will also bring a tear to your eye.   If you are a music aficionado or just like a feel-good show, you can’t miss “Beautiful”.  There is one more performance tonight at 7:30 p.m. at the Van Wezel.  There is much more Broadway coming to the Van Wezel including, “Jersey Boys”, “An American in Paris” and the hilarious “Menopause the Musical”.  Check the website for tickets at the Van Wezel website.

Van Wezel Photos

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Bradenton, Carole KIng, Florida, Pleasant Valley Sunday, Sarasota, Shirelles, Tapestry, The Drifers, The Monkees, Theatre, Van Wezel Performing Arts Center, Vicky Sullivan

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