Beautiful At Paper Mill Playhouse Is Absolutely Gorgeous

Poster for "Beautiful"
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By Bob Nesoff

Revivals of a Broadway hit show are often a tenuous thing. They are generally compared to the original and often come up short. Le Miz is the perfect example of how revivals did not match up. That generally holds true for off-Broadway and off-off Broadway.

Company of Beautiful at the Opening Night of Beautiful – The Carole King Musical © Rebecca J Michelson

That is unless the revival is being presented at Millburn’s Paper Mill Playhouse.

The original “Beautiful, The Carole King musical,” graced the boards on Broadway for five years, from 2014-2019…and it was a major hit . Did Paper Mill’s production stand up to the original?

If the audience had anything to say about it, the response would have been: “Absolutely.” In fact, it may have surpassed the original. 

That’s not to throw shade on Broadway. But when a musical draws its audience in tight, it’s a winner. And the Paper Mill audience was there with every foot-stompin’ song and swaying to the music and songs.

Danielle J. Summons, Mikayla White, Tavia Reveé and Jana Djenne Jackson at the Opening Night of Beautiful – The Carole King Musical © Rebecca J Michelson

A theater saying is “Leave them wanting for more.” The cast, taking a closing bow, had the audience in the palm of its hands. The applause went on for several long minutes before the audience finally let them leave the stage.

Carole King. One of the more notable song writers and entertainers in recent times, born in Queens, NY, as Carole Klein, was a graduate of Queens College, always had a bent for song writing and performing. “Beautiful” is the backstory of her life and how she -rose from a teen to one of the most sought after writers and performers.

Andrea Levinsky, Thomas Ed Purvis, Giselle Amarisa Watts, and Aaron Robinson at the Opening Night of “Beautiful-The Carole King Musical © Rebecca J. Michelson

King, played “beautifully” by Kyra Kennedy, makes the transition from starry-eyed teen to a mature woman and one of the most respected composers of her time. The story manages to heave to the truth (mostly) and, as on Broadway, depicted her as an unwed teen mother. She and the father, Gerry Goffin (Marrick Smith) eventually tie the knot and work together as she climbs one rung of the professional musical ladder after the other. 

Their relationship, interspersed with a medley of her songs, is handled rather more delicately that it was on Broadway. As a team they work together writing for others such as the Righteous Brothers, the Shirelles and many more. But on the way, she begins to blossom on her own…and becomes an unwed teen mother.

(L to R): Tavis Cunningham, Prentiss E. Mouton, Isaiah Reynolds and Jay Owens, who play The Drifters and other roles in Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, pictured on Opening Night © Rebecca J Michelson

Her songs included such memorable hits as “One Fine Day,” “Will You Love Me Tomorrow,” Be-Bop-a-lula” and so many more that rang home to the audience.

The original was nominated for a Tony Award and the Paper Mill production is no less enticing. 

The production touches far more delicately on Gerry’s infidelity than the original version, but it leaves no doubt that he was having affairs. They split and Carole is left to bring up their children on her own. 

(L-R): Suzanne Grodner, Jacob Ben-Shmuel, Kyra Kennedy, Marrick Smith, Samantha Massell and Bryan Fenkart at Curtain Call of Beautiful: The Carole King Musical © Jeremy Daniel

Carole King wrote many chart-topping scores for herself as well as some of the top groups of the time. And most of her songs are still heard today, having aced the passage of time.

The show combines great music with Carole King’s personal story. It tells of her influence on musical theater and is as relevant today as it was when first produced. Paper Mill has its own finger prints on he show with the oversight of Mark Hoebee, Producing Artistic Director and Executive Director Mike Stotts. 

“Beautiful” caps a season of hits at Paper Mill and closes the season on July 3. Click here for tickets go or call (973) 376-4343. Seats start at $35 and there isn’t a bad seat in the house.

With this, the final production of Paper Mill’s season, Carole King’s song: “Will You Love Me Tomorrow” would bring a resounding “YES.” From the audience.


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