From left, Sarah Bockel, Alison Whitehurst, Jacob Heimer and Dylan S. Wallach star in “Beautiful The Carole King Musical” at the Golden Gate Theatre for a brief run. (Courtesy Joan Marcus)

Carole King is king in ‘Beautiful’ on tour

Delightful musical tells story behind 1960s hits

Fans of 1960s and early ‘70s pop music will be enamored with “Beautiful The Carole King Musical,” the national tour of the award-winning show onstage at the Golden Gate Theatre in The City.

The show debuted in San Francisco in 2013 at the Curran before finding success on Broadway in 2014 (Jessie Mueller in the title role in those original productions won a Tony), where it’s still going strong.

But this second U.S. tour starring the delightful Sarah Bockel as composer King, sympathetic but challenging Dylan S. Wallach as her husband and writing partner Gerry Goffin, and sassy, sophisticated Alison Whitehurst and wry Jacob Heimer as their friends and competing songwriters Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann — is just as engaging, invigorating and touching, if not more, than the pre-Broadway original.

The tunes are the heart of the fact-based show, which describes the professional and personal lives of the young New York composers and lyricists responsible for “Take Good Care of My Baby,” “Will You Love Me Tomorrow,” “Up on the Roof,” “On Broadway” “The Locomotion,” “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling” and “One Fine Day.”

And those are just the great Act 1 numbers. They were written in the building at 1650 Broadway, the office where the foursome developed dance songs, love songs and catchy songs for their boss, producer and publisher Don Kirshner, played by James Clow, who placed them with pop groups of the day, from The Drifters to the Shirelles. The tour’s capable corps pull off those songs with panache, looking great in costumes by Alejo Vietti.

Douglas McGrath wrote the excellent, funny book, a perfect complement to the music, and the laughs are played up in this tour, led by original director Marc Bruni and choreographer Josh Prince.

Still, the conflicts are real and touching, and “Beautiful” evocatively details King and Goffin’s troubled relationship. The composing prodigies (she wrote melodies, he wrote words), met in their teens, and got married when King got pregnant. Throughout their time together, Goffin’s fidelity, absence from his family, and sometimes mental health, were issues for the couple.

But King, a quiet homebody, truly comes into her own after she and Goffin split, and after performing “It’s Too Late” at a keyboard for a small audience at a club, she decides to move to Los Angeles, where she completes her breakthrough 1971 album “Tapestry.”

Bockel captures all sides of King: her sheer talent, humility, insecurity, perseverance, and, finally, triumph as a solo artist.

In the first iteration of “Beautiful” in 2013, the show somehow felt incomplete, with not enough attention given to the pivotal, intimate “Tapestry,” which became the soundtrack to the lives of millions of people.

That’s not the case this time around. When King, confidently playing a grand piano, accompanying herself as she joyfully sings the “Tapestry” tune “Beautiful,” it’s a satisfying, emotional comment about the universal and healing power of pop music.


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,

Pop MusicTheater

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