Carole King and Gerry Goffin impacted the musical landscape with their creative genius, a story that lives on in a Broadway show coming to Scranton next week.
“Beautiful — The Carole King Musical” takes over Scranton Cultural Center at The Masonic Temple, 420 N. Washington Ave., from Tuesday, May 8, through Sunday, May 13, for eight shows thanks to Broadway Theatre League of Northeastern Pennsylvania.
The show traces King’s career as a songwriter and her relationship, both romantic and professional, with Goffin, as well as her coming into her own as a performer. The pair wrote numerous songs other performers made famous, and many, such as “The Locomotion,” appear in the musical. The first time King sits down at the piano and sings “Will You Love Me Tomorrow,” tour star Andrew Brewer said, he can hear the audience trying to sing along.
“And the show is kind of full of those moments, especially (in) the first act, of ‘I didn’t know they wrote that’ and ‘I didn’t know they wrote that,’” he added. “It’s all these recognizable songs that we think of as (belonging to) these other groups, and then … it shows up that it’s (King).”
King wrote “Will You Love Me Tomorrow” as a 17-year-old, and she and Goffin followed it with numerous hits for such acts as the Drifters, the Righteous Brothers and Herman’s Hermits. She began recording her own vocals, too, and her 1971 solo album, “Tapestry,” won her four Grammy awards, including best record, song and pop vocal performance (female) as well as album of the year. She has released numerous platinum and gold albums through the years and was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1987.
Brewer, who plays Goffin in the tour, has had a chance to see King in person a few times when she has come backstage, and he called her “very sweet.” Her story has been part of his life for several years, going back to his job as a swing — a cast member who can step into various roles when needed — on the Broadway production, which continues to run in New York City. Brewer then moved on to the national tour, where he worked his way up to the role of King’s ex-husband and songwriting partner.
The experience let him see multiple actors’ takes on the role and learn “what sort of worked with audiences or what didn’t work with audiences and kind of build my own version of that.”
It can be a tough role, too, “because he’s the catalyst for a lot of things happening in sort of a negative way,” Brewer said.
“I try to get you on his side as much as possible at the beginning and to understand and make clear that they were in love,” he said. “Despite the mistakes that he makes … through it all, he did care. And that’s the one thing I want to make sure is as clear as possible. He’s not just a bad guy doing bad stuff to be mean.”
The show has so much emotion and relatability, Brewer noted, with many moments people have all experienced, such as the fear of losing love that “Will You Love Me Tomorrow” emphasizes.
“That’s what makes the song so powerful, and the melodies play into that,” he said. “And (King and Goffin) were such a great team. … It really shows through the notes why they’ve remained so popular through the years.”
Brewer hopes that, at the bare minimum, audiences “just have a good evening” when they come to see “Beautiful.” They will hear King’s songs in context and see what the songwriters thought of as they penned them, he said. And the musical “ends on a very high note,” he added.
“It’s a very fun show,” Brewer said. “It has some heavier moments, and I think what’s surprising to a lot of people is, while it is whatever we call a ‘jukebox musical’ … there is a great story behind it that I don’t think a lot of people know.”