Burlingame native mothers all Caroles equally in ‘Beautiful’

Suzanne Grodner enjoys long run in tour of popular 1960s-set musical

Burlingame native Suzanne Grodner has been retracing the steps of Eugenia “Genie” Klein back and forth across the country since 2015. She plays the mother of singer-songwriter Carole King — born Carol Joan Klein — in the long-running tour of the musical “Beautiful.”

“I was actually asked to fill in on Broadway before the tour, back in 2014,” Grodner recalls. “They seemed to like what they saw, so when the tour was being cast, they offered me the job.”

She has performed opposite an array of Caroles including the role’s Tony-winning originator Jessie Mueller, Canadian actor Chilina Kennedy and Sarah Bockel, who recently left the tour to fill in on Broadway while Kennedy left Broadway for the Toronto stop.

Bockel rejoins the tour, now in San Francisco at the Golden Gate Theatre through June 9, and Grodner promises, “You’ll fall in love with Sarah. She is a powerhouse and just beyond gorgeous, on stage and off.“

Neither Bockel nor Grodner were part of the pre-Broadway run here at the Curran in 2013, but like Grodner, Bockel spent time with the Broadway production understudying both mother and daughter tracks while playing a different supporting role before graduating to the lead on tour.

“I am a proud mother to all my Caroles,” Grodner laughs. “I have loved every single one of them. They are so different in so many ways each one is completely unique, so I never compare them.”

Those unique qualities offer different perspectives and inflections on a single performance, but Grodner is quick to anchor them within the retracing framework of the craft.

“We’re telling [book writer] Doug McGrath’s story through Marc Bruni’s wonderful direction. Each of the Caroles has a different energy, and naturally, that radiates to the actor that’s opposite them. So, I get a range,” she says, “along with the impact of different venues, and just the day to day changes with the audiences.”

“Every Carole teaches me something new about Genie,” adds Grodner, who went to San Francisco State University.

Life on the road has kept Grodner from auditioning in the Bay Area for awhile, but she’s thrilled about the recent Tony announcement honoring her former colleagues at TheatreWorks Silicon Valley, which receives the 2019 regional theater award. She says, “I can’t wait to go down there and hug everyone!”

IF YOU GO

Beautiful: The Carole King Musical

Presented by SHN

Where: Golden Gate Theatre, 1 Taylor St., S.F.

When: 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays, 2 and 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays, 2 and 8 p.m. Fridays- Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays; closes June 9

Tickets: $56 to $256

Contact: (888) 746-1799, www.shnsf.com

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