Engeman Theater’s “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical” Is Some Kind Of Wonderful
“Beautiful” is a loving tribute to Carole King, the American singer-songwriter best known for writing chart-topping hits for some of the biggest acts in rock ‘n’ roll and for writing and performing the legendary 1971 album Tapestry, one of the best-selling albums of all time.
This Tony® and Grammy® Award-winning jukebox musical, with a book by Douglas McGrath, opens with Carole King’s 1971 performance at Carnegie Hall. King then takes us on a musical sojourn highlighting her early life, career, and tumultuous marriage to Gerry Goffin, her lyricist and collaborator. However, the real superstars of this musical are the many megahits created by two prolific teams of young songwriters, Carole King and Gerry Goffin, and Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, and, of course, the blockbuster songs Carole King wrote and performed on her own.
A big round of applause goes out to the talented director and choreographer, Paul Stancato, for his precision-perfect direction and upbeat choreography, the costume designer, Dustin Cross, for his magnificent designs, and the live band for making this production an unforgettable evening of theatre.
There are so many reasons to love this show that I don’t even know where to begin, but to quote Elizabeth Barrett Browning, “Let me count the ways.” First off, the four multi-talented performers, Cory Simmons, Damien Deshaun Smith, Dwayne Washington, and Leron Wellington, who portrayed The Drifters, held the audience spellbound with their good looks, stellar vocals, smooth dance moves, and glitter suits. Their magical performance of “On Broadway” was one of the show’s standout moments.
A few scenes later, four powerhouse singers, sizzling in their spectacular sequined costumes, stepped on stage and gave a stunning performance as The Shirelles, the first African-American female group to top any charts. Renee Marie Titus, Zuri Washington, Cecily Dionne Davis, and Cece Morin captivated the audience with their moving rendition of “Will You Love Me Tomorrow.”
And who doesn’t love the pop dance song “The Locomotion?” The ensemble and Cece Morin, as Little Eva, rocked this popular party tune and had the audience hooting and clapping with delight.
If you go to the theatre to laugh and have a good time, you will love Jack B. Murphy’s hilarious portrayal of Neil Sedaka. Later, this versatile actor joined Joe Caskey in showcasing their strong vocals with their spot-on portrayal of The Righteous Brothers. This duo’s heartrending version of “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’” was pure theatrical magic. This beloved ballad was The Righteous Brothers and the gifted songwriters Mann and Weil’s first number-one hit.
The supporting cast brought their A-game to this show. Laura Leigh Carroll, who portrayed Genie Klein, Carole’s loving but overprotective mother, and Devon Goffman as the fast-talking music mogul Don Kirshner, both gave outstanding performances.
Having said all that, I still haven’t mentioned the four main reasons to love this show: the mega-talented leads, Stephanie Lynne Mason, Jack Cahill-Lemme, Sarah Ellis, and Noah Berry.
Stephanie Lynne Mason is the living embodiment of Carole King, replicating King’s mannerisms, Brooklynese, and distinctive vocals. Mason delivered pitch-perfect renditions of “So Far Away,” “It’s Too Late,” “Where You Lead,” and “(You Make Me Feel Like A) Natural Woman.”
Jack Cahill-Lemme gave an award-worthy performance as the talented but troubled and tortured Gerry Goffin. The onstage chemistry between Mason and Cahill-Lemme was palatable, and the audience loved their moving duet, “Take Good Care of My Baby.”
The other brilliant songwriting couple who played a pivotal role in this musical were Cynthia Weil, played by Sarah Ellis, and Noah Berry as Barry Mann. With her captivating and charismatic portrayal of the quick-witted, intelligent, stylish, and confident Cynthia Weil, Ellis was a real scene-stealer. I loved her bold and brassy rendition of “Happy Days Are Here Again!” Noah Berry was believable as Barry Mann, a neurotic but likable hypochondriac bursting with talent and ambition. These two polished performers delivered their many comedic lines with expert timing. Berry gave a memorable performance belting out the rock song “We Got to Get Out of This Place,” and Ellis and Berry gave a heartfelt rendition of “Walking In The Rain.”
The talented ensemble was another big reason to love this show. Kudos to Julia Bogdanoff, Joe Caskey, Kate Coffey, Cecily Dionne Davis, Alaysia Renay Duncan, Cece Morin, Jack B. Murphy, Cory Simmons, Damien Deshaun Smith, Renee Marie Titus, Justin Waite, Dwayne Washington, Zuri Washington, Leron Wellington, Sean Widener, and Jillian Worthing.
The Engeman Theater’s knock-your-socks-off production of “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical” will make you feel the earth move under your feet. This show runs until October 29, 2023. Tickets may be purchased by calling 631-261-2900, going online at www.engemantheater.com, or visiting the Engeman Theater Box Office at 250 Main Street, Northport.
You’ve got a friend, so treat them to this enthralling, entertaining, and exhilarating theatrical experience at the beautiful Engeman Theater.