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It’s a Tony Award-winning musical about a shy girl from Brooklyn who becomes one of the most successful pop songwriters of all time. But casting directors for “Beautiful — The Carole King Musical” found that three actresses raised in Chicago, not New York City, have the right blend of talents to evoke the star of the show.
Jessie Mueller won the 2014 Tony for best actress for her portrayal of King. Her sister, Abby, took over the role for the first national tour and is now playing King on Broadway.
And Sarah Bockel, who understudied one Mueller on Broadway and the other on the road, is in her second season as King in the national tour that will come to Penn State for seven performances, Feb. 19–24, at Eisenhower Auditorium.
“Beautiful” chronicles a dozen years from the late 1950s to the early 1970s, when King met and married lyricist Gerry Goffin. They wrote a river of hit songs together and their marriage imploded.
“I wasn’t aware of the story about her life, at all. I honestly just knew ‘Tapestry.’ I knew those songs,” said Bockel, who understudied the role of King for 18 months before getting her turn to perform the character every day. “I came in contact with her music a lot with the people that have covered her songs. I was a big fan of Amy Winehouse, and she did a beautiful version of ‘Will You (Still) Love Me Tomorrow.’ I don’t think I even knew Carole King wrote that song. And I thought Kylie Minogue wrote ‘The Loco-Motion.’”
“King and her then-husband and lyricist, the late Gerry Goffin, had a major impact on the pop world in the ’50s and ’60s, and the story of their rise to fame — and the troubles that came with it — is a compelling one,” wrote critic James Hebert for the San Diego Union-Tribune. “‘Beautiful’ weaves that story into a show that dazzles at times with its splashy visuals, and is stuffed with memorable songs, beginning with such early King/Goffin gems as ‘Take Good Care of My Baby,’ ‘Will You Love Me Tomorrow’ and ‘One Fine Day.’
“As King, Sarah Bockel captures a winning sense of both the earthy and the ambitious, and sings with an appealing and versatile voice that echoes King’s own soulful vocals without straying into mimicry.”