Maybe you remember singer-songwriter Carole King. Or her 1971 career-making album, Tapestry, a Grammy winner that has sold more than 25 million copies. Certainly, you’ll recognize her songs on that album, which have become a part of the American pop songbook and “the soundtrack to people’s lives,” the album’s producer, Lou Adler, told The Washington Post.
You just call out my name
And you know wherever I am
I’ll come running
To see you again
Winter, spring, summer or fall
All you have to do is call
And I’ll be there
You’ve got a friend
Beautiful: The Carole King Musical depicts the journey of King — the songwriter, the singer, and the woman. Years before Tapestry, King was working behind the scenes as a prolific songwriter. Her first hit was in 1960, when she was 17: Will You Love Me Tomorrow, sung by The Shirelles. In 1967, Aretha Franklin scored a place at Number 8 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart with another King song, (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman. King and her writing partner/husband Gerry Goffin wrote other pop hits, like Take Good Care of My Baby (recorded by Bobby Vee), Up on the Roof (The Drifters), Locomotion (Little Eva), One Fine Day (The Chiffons), Don’t Bring Me Down (The Animals), and Pleasant Valley Sunday (The Monkees).
The 2014 Tony-winning Broadway show Beautiful stops at University of New Mexico’s Popejoy Hall in Albuquerque from Wednesday, June 12, to June 16.
A Kennedy Center Honors recipient in 2015, King was the first woman to win Grammys for Record of the Year (“It’s Too Late”), Song of the Year (“You’ve Got a Friend”), and Album of the Year (Tapestry). Indeed, King was something of a songwriting prodigy. She began recording demos as a teenager with her high school friend and soon-to-be superstar Paul Simon. At the same Brooklyn school, she was dating fellow student Neil Sedaka, who scored a 1958 hit with a song written about her, “Oh! Carol.”
The run of rock ’n’ roll and girl-group hits occurred while King was in her 20s, raising two children and enduring a stormy relationship with the philandering Goffin. By the time Tapestry came out, she was a single mother, not yet 30, living in the leafy Los Angeles neighborhood of Laurel Canyon, and hanging out with Joni Mitchell and James Taylor. Music was evolving from those early ’60s doo-wop sounds on AM radio to the more eclectic and album-oriented music being played at the beginning of the 1970s on the FM dial. Other musicians on the radio included The Jackson Five, The Bee Gees, Three Dog Night, The Carpenters, Rod Stewart, Stevie Wonder, and the Temptations.
Beautiful reflects a recent trend on Broadway: the jukebox musical. Like The Cher Show, the thinly veiled ABBA tribute Mamma Mia! and Jersey Boys, which recalls the history of The Four Seasons, the plot is wrapped around popular hits with a healthy dose of nostalgia. The show features 28 numbers sung not just by the leading actress, but also by actors portraying The Drifters, The Shirelles, Neil Sedaka, and Little Eva. The songwriting team of Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann, who once were friendly rivals of King and Goffin, also play a part in the show, along with their hits, such as “On Broadway” and “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’.”
In a review for the New York Times, Ben Brantley wrote that despite being a “friendly, formulaic bio musical,” the show depicts King as a complex character. “Modesty is not the usual stuff of Broadway showstoppers,” he wrote. “And if Beautiful never acquires the flashy momentum of Jersey Boys, it may come in part from the deferential gentleness of its heroine.” ◀
▼ Beautiful: The Carole King Musical
▼ 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, June 12 to Friday, June 14; 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday, June 15; and 1 and 6:30 p.m. Sunday, June 16
▼ Popejoy Hall, University of New Mexico, 203 Cornell Drive NE, Albuquerque
▼ $48-$98; 505-925-5858, popejoypresents.com