Beautiful, the Carole King Musical weaves a tale of the American songbook

Beautiful the Musical National Tour, photo provided by Dr. Phillips Center/National Tour photo
Beautiful the Musical National Tour, photo provided by Dr. Phillips Center/National Tour photo /

When many people think of Carole King, the celebrated album Tapestry instantly comes to mind. Whether it is the “I Feel the Earth Move” or that feeling of being “So Far Away,” the combination of enchanting melodies and memorable lyrics have woven King into the musical story that crosses generations. In Beautiful, the Carole King Musical, her story is not just one album that has stood the test of time. Instead, it is celebration of a woman who impacted the American songbook.

As part of a National Tour, which recently stopped at Dr. Phillips Center in Orlando, Beautiful, the Carole King Musical, explores how King went from allowing others to sing her story to embracing the spotlight on stage. Like many jukebox musicals, the songs are familiar and have the audience ready to tap their foot to the beat.

While some people might appreciate that King played a role in some of the most iconic songs over the years, others might be surprised to hear renditions of “One Fine Day,” “Will You Love Me Tomorrow” and “You’ve Lost that Lovin’ Feeling.”

Although the music drives the King’s journey, her tale is equally about becoming a strong woman. Putting aside the lyrics of “A Natural Woman,” there is a tale of women’s empowerment that should not be missed in this story.

Specifically, Sara Shepperd, who plays Carole King, carefully portrays that growth through her performance. As seen in the first act, her singing is more reserved, similar to how King was less confident in her own abilities. Over time, Shepperd takes command of the stage. Her voice will not be overshadowed by others.

While a subtle performance at times, the arc makes the audience engage with King’s journey. From wife and mother who stands in the shadow of a husband who is never satisfied to the woman who takes control of her own destiny, that message is one that many people can appreciate. Even more so, it had some people reflecting on those songs from the American songbook in a different light.

Beautiful Carole King Musical
Beautiful the Musical National Tour, photo provided by Dr. Phillips Center/National Tour photo /

Looking back at the familiar songs asks people to think about how life has evolved. Today women are front and center on stage, top billing on the marque. It might be time to better appreciate that it hasn’t always been that way. If not for some women paving the way, the view could be a far different one.

Since Beautiful is a jukebox musical, the blend of the familiar music seems to fit well within the storyline. Putting aside whether a fellow audience member might be singing along, it is an engaging experience for theater audience. By giving people the known with the story behind some songs, it makes the classic songs seem new again.

As seen in Dr. Phillips Center 2021-22 schedule, the familiar stories, The Temptations musical, Tootsie, and even The Prom, get audiences excited to step back into the live theater community. It is that feel-good moment that many long to celebrate over and over.

Even as the Tony Awards look to celebrate the newest batch of American theater royalty, the blend of original with known songs keeps the theater community engaged with a broader audience. While the theater geek might long for that twist like Hadestown or subtle story like A Band’s Visit, others want Tina the Musical or Michael that puts the songs played on repeat on the stage.

For now, Beautiful, the Carole King Musical is coming to a theater across the U.S. As the songs fill the theater, take a moment to consider how the melody has made life a little more fascinating, graceful, and splendid. Sometimes the most beautiful of life’s moments are not as far away as they seem.