REVIEW: Beef and Boards brings ‘Beautiful’ to life 

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Devon Perry plays the iconic Carole King in Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre's production of Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, now on stage through March 30. (Photo/Indy Ghost Light)
Devon Perry plays the iconic Carole King in Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre's production of Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, now on stage through March 30. (Photo/Indy Ghost Light)

Beef and Boards Dinner Theatre is celebrating the life and legacy of Carole King, one of the most successful female songwriters of the late 20th century. 

On stage now through March 30, “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical” is a Tony Award-winning musical based on the true story of the legendary Carole King Klein, the spirited young songwriter from Brooklyn, New York, who wrote for musicians such as Aretha Franklin, The Drifters, The Chiffons, The Shirelles and Bobby Vee.

Directed by Heather Patterson King and choreographed by Kenney Green-Tilford, “Beautiful: A Carole King Musical” follows a young Carole King (Devon Perry) and her songwriting partner and eventual husband, Gerry Goffin (Elliot Litherland), as they navigate their fast-paced life as a young couple, new parents and chart-topping songwriters.

The show features many of King and Goffin’s chart-topping hits, such as “You’ve Got a Friend,” “One Fine Day,” “Take Good Care of My Baby,” written for big name artists as well as songs such as “Natural Woman” and “I Feel the Earth” from King’s landmark album “Tapestry.” 

The Drifters (from left: Jonathan Studdard, Grant Evan, Ray Gleaves, and Simeon Rawls) sing “Some Kind of Wonderful” in Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre’s production of “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical,” now on stage through March 30. (Photo/Renzulli Photography)

Cynthia Weil (Devan Mathias), King’s independent best friend and lyricist, and Berry Mann (Kyle Southern), her songwriting partner and eventual husband, spend the show simultaneously — and humorously — falling in love and competing against King and Goffin for the number one spot on the charts with songs such as “He’s Sure the Boy I Love” and “Walking in the Rain.”

As one of the many groups King and Goffin wrote for, The Drifters (Grant Evan, Ray Gleaves, Jonathan Studdard and Simeon Rawls) take the stage in sharp suits and slicked back hair with energizing choreography in “Up on the Roof.” The next time The Drifters take the stage is during “On Broadway,” which Weil and Mann wrote for the group. Evan, Gleaves, Studdard and Rawls’ vocals blended beautifully and powerfully in the number, and the four-man group quickly drew quite a bit of love and attention from audience members. 

Dare I say, if they had any more songs, these four men would have stolen the show.
However, The Shirelles (Ebony Deloney, Maya Mays, Bridgett Ludlow and Tiffany Gilliam) gave a lovely and warm rendition of “Will You Love Me Tomorrow.” Their pink satin dresses and melodic harmonies set to elegant step-touches helped not only emphasize the love between a young King and Goffin but the changing industry for Black musicians of the time. 

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This performance was clearly an audience favorite, as many voices in the auditorium joined them in singing, humming and even swaying along with them; well, that and Little Eva’s (Ebony Deloney) onstage spinning dress change during “The Locomotion.”

Toward the end of Act I, as Goffin’s character begins to battle with mental illness, fictional singer Janelle Woods (Gilliam) and her backup dancers take the stage in bright, frilly teal dresses to perform “One Fine Day.” The song splits between Woods’ upbeat TV appearance and King’s sorrowful lament as she now struggles with the news of her husband’s infidelity with the singer.

Overall, “Beautiful: A Carole King Musical” was delightful and fun. The show incorporated bright colors and whimsical set pieces, including, like, five different couches and at least four pianos. The stage, and really the show itself, extends further into the audience than most, with characters finding their way into the orchestra box to sing and dance along to songs being performed on the mainstage and even weaving through aisles during various scenes, entrances and exits. 

Janelle Woods (Tiffany Gilliam), center, sings “One Fine Day” with her backup singers on a television music special in Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre’s production of “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical,” now on stage through March 30.  (Photo/Renzulli Photography)

The actual stage featured a more unique rounded catwalk downstage, allowing audience members to get up close and personal with the characters, as well as a revolving — or rotating stage — and digital backdrops further upstage.

One of the standout performances of this show goes to wig designer Andrew Elliot and costume designer Dustin Cross. Yes, the wig and costume design for this show was that good. I do not normally point that out as often in reviews, but it truly was spectacular to watch these characters come to life onstage in brilliant outfits and hairstyles spanning the 1950s, 60s and 70s.

“Beautiful: The Carole King Musical” is showing at Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre, 9301 Michigan Road, for 55 performances through March 30 weekdays and Saturday evenings at 8 p.m., Sunday evenings 7 p.m., and select matinees at 1 p.m. A dinner buffet and select beverages are available prior to each show. Tickets range from $55-$82 and are available to purchase at beefandboards.com.

Contact staff writer Chloe McGowan at 317-762-7848. Follow her on Twitter @chloe_mcgowanxx.