UPDATE: Congratulations to ticket winners Timothy Savage
and Erin Adams.
ORIGINAL POST: Broadway in Fresno kicks off its 2017-18 season with its biggest production of the year. “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical,” which opens Tuesday, Oct. 24, will play for eight performances through Sunday, Oct. 29. That’s compared to a two-night run (most often Tuesdays and Wednesdays) for most shows in the series.
What can you glean from this? That “Beautiful” has the name recognition and broad appeal to attract thousands more people to the Saroyan Theatre than other shows in the season lineup. It’s also a Broadway-level production featuring actors who are members of Actors Equity, the professional stage union, which isn’t always the case with shows that tour through Fresno.
(If you haven’t yet gotten your tickets, here’s a chance to see the show for free: I’m giving away two pairs of tickets to the opening night performance. More details at the bottom of this post.)
I got to see “Beautiful” on Broadway in 2014, and I can see why it’s such a big hit: Unlike many so-called jukebox musicals that focus on one person’s music, this one has a strong, compelling storyline. We follow the young King just as she’s getting her start in the business, through the ups and downs of success and relationships, the music complements the emotional trajectory of the story. And, of course, some of those songs by the famed singer/songwriter are so well known you’ll be humming along after just a few bars.
I caught up with Sarah Bockel, who recently took over the role of Carole in the national tour, a few weeks ago by phone when she was playing in Oklahoma City. Here are Five Things to know about her and “Beautiful.”
Bockel knows this part really well. She may have only had the official leading role for a month or so, but she’s already played Carole more than 50 times since 2015, when she joined the original national tour cast.
She understudied for Abby Mueller, who took the role of Carole on the road in the tour. (Abby’s sister, Jessie, originated the role on Broadway.) When Bockel wasn’t stepping in for Carole, she played the ensemble role of Betty, which is the normal understudy track. Her experience in the show also includes a five-week stint as a substitute on Broadway.
Altogether, she figures she’s appeared in one role or another more than 1,000 times in “Beautiful.”
Listen for the rustle, rustle, rustle. That’s what Bockel calls it when the Carole King fans in the audience start to stir in anticipation when their favorite songs are introduced.
Most of them want to hear songs from King’s fabled “Tapestry” album.
But even many King fans aren’t aware of all the songs that she wrote for other groups, particularly when she was just starting out: “Some Kind of Wonderful” for The Drifters, for example.
The show also gets to throw in music by the songwriting team of Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann, whose friendship and rivalry with King and her husband Gerry Goffin forms much of the narrative’s dramatic backbone. That’s how you get to hear such tunes as “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling” and “Uptown.”
It’s a tough role. Bockel came to this realization working alongside Abby Mueller on the national tour.
“Abby played the role beautifully, and simply, and vulnerably,” she says. “I didn’t want to replicate, but I knew what the role needed. I’m insecure, just like everybody, and I like to laugh at myself, and I say stupid things and face-palm my forehead, and that’s what the role needs, is somebody who can laugh at themselves.”
It’s also a role that requires an actor to go through a lot of heartbreak each night.
“It can be hard to start out so hopeful and joyful, and then go through the things that she does,” she says.
When it comes to music, family background matters. What you’re exposed to when you’re young can have a profound impact on your musical taste and appreciation later in life.
“I grew up with older siblings,” Bockel says. “My brother was a Deadhead. My sister loved hair bands. My favorite when I was in grade school was Janis Joplin. My sister opened me up to Janis, Carole King and Fleetwood Mac.”
She has King’s “Tapestry” album on vinyl, and a little portable record player to play it on that she can’t, alas, take with her on tour.
Her familiarity with King’s music has helped her with the details — by knowing how, for example, to perform the singer’s classic vowel sounds. It’s not an impersonation or impression, but more an appreciation. “Because I grew up listening to her I know what I needed to sound like,” she says.
Her favorite King song in the show? “It’s Too Late.” She loves singing it.
King’s impact on music continues to this day, she adds. “I feel like I can hear her influence in groups like Haim.”
“Beautiful” is, ultimately, a happy show. Which also makes Bockel happy. Those thousand-plus performances for Bockel seem like a pretty good way to spend her time. Sure, it might sound a little sappy, but there’s a pursue-your-dreams, go-for-the-gusto optimism in a show like this that is hard to resist.
It can even make a musical-theater performer in a national tour sound like, well, a songwriter.
“If you can give all the love in your heart, if you can just inspire people to be just a little kinder the next day after they’ve seen the show, I’ve done my job,” she says.
Win tickets to ‘Beautiful’
I’m giving away two pairs of tickets to Tuesday’s opening night performance of “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical” (7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 24, Saroyan Theatre). Here’s how you enter: Leave a comment on this post telling us your favorite song by King. (Some possible titles: “You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman,” “One Fine Day,” “Up on the Roof,” “Will You Love Me Tomorrow,” “You’ve Got a Friend,” “It’s Too Late.”)
Or, if you’re shy about your musical tastes, tell us why you want to go to the show.
I’ll pick two winners at random. You’ll be able to pick up your tickets at Will Call. Deadline to enter is midnight Sunday, Oct. 22. I’ll get back to the winners Monday morning.
“Beautiful: The Carole King Musical,” opens 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 24, Saroyan Theatre, 700 M St., Fresno. Runs through Oct. 29. Tickets $21-$79.
Ticket lottery: A limited number of tickets for all performances of “Beautiful” will be sold to winners of a random lottery drawing. Winning tickets are $20 each and limited to 2 per winner. You can only win the lottery once, so choose only the performances you can attend. Results will be emailed Monday, Oct. 23, at 12:00 pm. If you are a lucky winner, you will be able to purchase your tickets online using a special code to complete your purchase. No need to come down to the theatre. Deadline to enter the lottery is 11 a.m. Monday, Oct. 23. Enter at this link.
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