‘Beautifully’ Enduring

‘Beautifully’ Enduring

King is songwriter you didn’t know you knew

Falling in love at 16 and getting married too young, going through a divorce, having children and having what you thought was going to happen not work out — Carole King’s story is about so much more than her music.

“Who can’t connect to heartbreak? And having to deal with it even though you’ve avoided it at every turn? It’s universal,” says actor Sarah Bockel, starring as King in the new musical about her life.

“And she wants [her dreams] to work out so badly, that I can just kind of react as myself in those circumstances as long as I keep the vocal quality,” Bockel adds of the pressure of portraying a living icon in her own life story.

Of course, Bockel acknowledges, it’s King’s music people come to the show for. “Beautiful — The Carole King Musical” debuted on Broadway in 2014 as a jukebox musical, taking the audience through the true story of King’s rise from a 16-year-old songwriter to a worldwide phenomenon. The Grammy Award-winning show (for “Best Musical Theater Album”) includes 15 of King’s most unforgettable classics from her hundreds of writing credits, as well as a few other hits of the era.

“I just love her so much; I feel like one of the crazy fans now,” Bockel enthuses. As part of the original touring cast in 2015, to a short stint on Broadway in the ensemble, to now touring in the starring role, Bockel has had a lot of time to immerse herself in King’s world.

“She changed people’s lives so much without knowing them at all — just millions of people have specific personal connections to every song and I feel that way, too, now. So many memories and moments in my life, her songs are the background music to them.”

Though three years is short in the life of a show, Bockel’s involvement since almost the beginning has given her a front row view of how quickly the country’s social climate can affect audience reaction to some of the situations King lived through in the late 1950s and early ’60s.

“Certain jokes do not land how they used to. We feel more of a feminist air in audiences,” Bockel reveals, specifically pointing to early interactions between King and her husband, Gerry Goffin. The two are teenagers and they’re flirting, but some of Goffin’s jokes aren’t as funny as they once were, Bockel shares. “We just have to be a little gentler with them, and I try to make sure that I am really actively consenting. Like, ‘Yes. I am into this. I like you,’ immediately, as soon as we start flirting, so nobody has to feel gross. It’s a funny thing that has changed just in the last three years since the show started.”

One thing that hasn’t changed is the reaction to the music. Bockel says she always enjoys hearing the murmur of recognition wash over the audience at the beginning chords of each beloved song. And despite King’s breakthrough as a performer in her own right in the ’70s with her album “Tapestry” — which Bockel affirms she owned on vinyl even before her involvement with the show — Bockel insists audience members across generations know and love King’s music, even if they may not know it yet.

“It’s really awesome to see [people in our younger generation] maybe even get dragged to the show by their parents or grandparents and end up really enjoying themselves, and being surprised at how much of the material they know and have memories attached to,” Bockel shares. “Because so much of modern music now is influenced by her, and people don’t even know it.

“I didn’t know ‘Will You Still Love Me’ was written by Carole king because I knew the Amy Winehouse cover, you know?” she demonstrates. “Or I listen to HAIM and I can hear Carole King, I can hear Stevie Nicks, Annie Lennox — I can hear all these influences. [But] especially [King] in modern singer/songwriters. So people are affected by her more than they ever thought.”



‘Beautiful — The Carole King Musical’

WHEN — 7 p.m. April 24-25; 1:30 & 7 p.m. April 26; 8 p.m. April 27; 2 & 8 p.m. April 28; 2 p.m. April 29

WHERE — Walton Arts Center in Fayetteville

COST — $44-$108

INFO — 443-5600, waltonartscenter.org, beautifulonbroadway.com



Categories: Entertainment, Theater