King Klein: The Hits and Joie de Vivre Keep on Rolling at La Mirada with Bioplay About Pop Icon

The company of “BEAUTIFUL: THE CAROLE KING MUSICAL,” directed by David Ruttura and now playing at La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts.  Photo credit: Jason Niedle/Tethos

If you want to feel the Earth move under your feet, bop on over to the La Mirada Theatre to enjoy the rock ’n’ roll extravaganza Beautiful, The Carole King Musical. This bioplay dramatizes the life story of one of pop music’s most prolific, prodigious talents, with performances of 30 sizzling songs, rather gloriously accompanied by a live 10-ish piece orchestra ensconced out of sight (but not out of earshot) in the pit fronting the stage. The title character is nothing short of the “King Klein” of rock (Klein is Carole’s birth surname), who literally started composing songs and having them recorded when the precocious, precious pianist was only 16.

The musical, with a book by Oscar nominee Douglas McGrath, is a well-stitched  “tapestry” – if you will – of Carole’s personal and professional life and the music of her times. Beautiful follows Carole (Broadway and national tour veteran Sara Sheperd) as she takes the train from provincial Queens to sophisticated Manhattan, where the teenager sells numbers to Bronx-born music producer Don Kirshner (Brian Ibsen, who has stage and TV credits galore) at 1650 Broadway, near the fabled Brill Building and Times Square. At Queens College, Carole – who is played as a frumpy female with a big nose – falls for the older, hunky Gerry Goffin (Miles Jacoby), an aspiring playwright who becomes her lyricist. They soon become partners in romance, as well as songwriting, and a pregnant Carole weds Gerry when she’s only 17-years-old.

They write hit after hit, such as “The Locomotion” (performed by their babysitter Little Eva, depicted by the aptly monikered Jazz Madison) and befriend another songwriting duo, Barry Mann (Trevor James, who has many stage musicals under his belt, portrays this artist who is overly worried about his health) and Cynthia Weil (Sara King, an original Beautiful company member). To some extent, this is also a bioplay about Weil and Mann, who executive producer Tom McCoy of McCoy Rigby Entertainment pointed out from the stage before the curtain lifted, sitting right behind yours truly in the audience. Weil and Mann’s own standards include “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling” and “On Broadway.”

Beautiful proceeds to follow the ups and downs of the two couple’s relationships and their progression as forces on the evolving rock scene. Along the way, fans are treated to a panoply of pop, a procession and pageant of performers reenacting and crooning classics of the ’50s and ’60s as the Shirelles, the Righteous Brothers, the Drifters, etc. In the play, interracial relations between the characters are amicable, united by a common love of the great music they are producing to make the world move their feet – and hearts – to. It’s funny to think that white Jewish girls and boys wrote such foot-stomping songs often performed by African American artists; so much for stereotypes!

Throughout the musical Carole fights for true love and to be true to her own rather singular, creative vision as an artist, defending early rock music for how much “fun” and joyful it often was. Eventually, Carole rather wonderfully stops hiding behind other, perhaps more “glamorous,” singers to tickle the ivories while singing her own music, live in concert and on recordings, under the guidance of West Coast producer par excellence, Lou Adler (Brady Fritz). She finally blossoms and comes into her own, with masterpieces like “(You Make Me Feel Like a) Natural Woman” and the peerless “You’ve Got a Friend.” At the end it seemed as if the large cast and ensemble had omitted one of Carole’s biggest hits, but never fear, Sheperd belts it out as a grand finale. I won’t exactly tell you which classic it is, other than to say that if you are still breathing, this rocking rendition will surely make the Earth move under your feet.

After the second act, upon leaving my seat, I turn to the casually clad Barry Mann, wearing a pair of jeans to the premiere of the play he’s portrayed in, and asked the composer how accurate Trevor James’ depiction of him. Smiling, the songwriter replied: “It’s true, I am a hypochondriac.” I then told him that his anthem, which had been immortalized in 1965 by The Animals, “We Gotta Get Out of This Place,” was one of my favorites and happily shook the hand of the creator who had given me so much joy of the decades.

Unless you hate 1950s-1970s rock music, Beautiful is a sheer delight, from beginning to end, with great singing, good dancing, acting plus sets by Derek McLane. Ryan O’Connell wonderfully conducts the orchestra and David Ruttura skillfully directs the about two-and-a-half hour, two-act production. This is one of my two favorite shows of the many I’ve had the pleasure to see/hear at La Mirada, the other being Young Frankenstein in 2022. Although all aspiring artistes will likely embrace Beautiful, the best reason to see it is for the joy of life it imparts, giving thanks for simply being alive. So, if “you’re down and troubled And you need some lovin’ care,” have I got a show for you! Beautiful will leave you tapping your tootsies and singing, a la Neil Sedaka, “Oh Carole!”

Beautiful, The Carole King Musical is being performed 7:30 p.m. on Thursdays (except Nov. 23 – there is an added Wednesday, Nov. 22, 7:30 p.m. performance, due to Thanksgiving); 8:00 p.m. on Fridays; 2:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. on Saturdays; and 1:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. on Sundays through Dec. 3 at to the La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts, 14900 La Mirada Blvd., La Mirada, CA. For info see: or call (562)944-9801 or (714)994-6310.  



Sara Sheperd stars as “Carole King” in “BEAUTIFUL: THE CAROLE KING MUSICAL,; Fatima El-Bashir, Rosharra Francis, Briana Brooks and Jazz Madison star in “BEAUTIFUL: THE CAROLE KING MUSICAL; Jazz Madison (center) with the company of “BEAUTIFUL: THE CAROLE KING MUSICAL. Photo credit: Jason Niedle/Tethos