Tim Rogan and Elena Ricardo star in North Carolina Theatre's Production of Beautiful: The Carole King Musical. Photo by Curtis Brown Photography.
Carole King is known for being a legendary songwriter and, later in her life, a gifted singer. Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, onstage now through North Carolina Theatre and directed by Parker Esse, explores this fascinating trajectory. In fact, it explores King’s entire trajectory—beginning all the way back when she was just a plucky Brooklyn girl with big dreams.
The far-spanning jukebox musical, which features a book by Douglas McGrath, begins with an energetic Carole (Elena Ricardo), who introduces the show and the story that’s about to unfold. Right from the start, Ricardo creates a Carole who is bubbly, full-of-life, and worth rooting for. As the plot tackles tough themes, however, Ricardo sheds the naivete and nails the emotional intensity and inner turmoil of her character, all while still infusing her with a subtle strength. Her rendition of “Will You Love Me Tomorrow” is particularly raw and affecting.
This depth of acting is evident among other members of the cast as well. Tim Rogan is believable and even somewhat sympathetic in his role as Gerry, Carole’s troubled, unsettled husband, while Nick Moulton and Kate Loprest add energy, charm, and just the right touches of humor in their roles as Carole’s friends, Barry and Cynthia. Loprest, in particular, is perfectly pushy and polished in her portrayal of the iconic Cynthia Weil.
The production also benefits from a lively, diverse ensemble cast and Esse's dazzling choreography. In every dance number, from the small to the large-scale, great attention is given to every detail, resulting in a rich visual experience. The incredible, time-appropriate fashions and cool color block looks by Tammy Spencer also add to the aesthetic appeal. Plus, the entire stage is beautifully lit by Samuel Rushen so that viewers don’t miss a single, magical moment.
All of these features combine with smooth, fast-paced direction and scenes that flow seamlessly from one to the next. The result is a highly stylized, truly immersive theatrical experience. Viewers will feel as if they’ve stepped into Carole’s world and her shoes. They’ll empathize with her pain, cheer on her victories, and walk away with a newfound understanding of this incredible performer and the legacy she created.
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