Beautiful: The Carole King Musical | Ford Center for the Performing Arts, Oriental Theatre | Theater & Performance | Chicago Reader

Beautiful: The Carole King Musical Closing (Theater and Galleries) Recommended The Short List (Theater)

When: Wednesdays-Sundays. Continues through Feb. 21 2016

"Beautiful" isn't really the word to describe this jukebox musical covering the early career of Carole King from her precocious start, grinding out hits for pop impresario Don Kirshner to her apotheosis as the boom-generation madonna of the Tapestry album. "Sweet" seems more apt. "Fun." And most particularly, "comfortable." King has had her sorrows—her difficult marriage to writing partner Gerry Goffin constitutes the central trauma of the show. But you never worry about her here, partly because you know what triumphs are coming and partly because she's so plucky, droll, and well nurtured by supportive friends. Fellow songwriting greats Barry Mann and Cynthia Weill come across like Jerry and Millie, the neighbors on The Dick Van Dyke Show. Indeed, Douglas McGrath's book goes out of its way to avoid trouble, never exploring what's obvious onstage: the racial divide between King and the artists who sang her biggest Kirshner-era songs. That's too bad inasmuch as the period was so full of implication for artists on both sides of the divide and American musical history as a whole. The compensation is dozens of great songs by King and her peers, from "Up on the Roof" to "You've Got a Friend"—all performed, yes, beautifully. —Tony Adler

Price: $47-$137

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