By Leah Parodi
Coming to Omaha in April of this year is Beautiful: The Carole King Musical. Beautiful is a Tony and Grammy Award-winning Broadway smash jukebox musical based upon the early life and career of Carole King. The story of King’s life is told using songs that she wrote as a solo artist and in collaboration for other performers. King’s story is an amazing journey of drive, setbacks and triumph and this incredible touring cast hits all the highs and lows. From King’s struggle to slip out from under the tight grip of her mother to heartbreak from the man she loves, audiences will cheer as King breaks free and becomes one of America’s most prolific song writers and iconic performers.
The songs from Beautiful are bountiful, classic, instantly recognizable and timeless. King, over the course of her career, penned over 600 songs for herself and other artists. Audiences may be surprised to learn that hits she wrote for other artists include “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow”, “On Broadway”, “The Loco-Motion” and “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin'”. And then there are the songs that King wrote and performed as a solo artist such as “It’s Too Late”, “You’ve Got a Friend”, “You Make Me Feel Like A Natural Woman”, “I Feel the Earth Move” and the title song “Beautiful”.
Beautiful: The Carole King Musical tells the true story of Carol Klein, who as a teenager, with passion and grit, fought her way into the record business. By the time Klein was in her 20’s she had married the man of her dreams and was a hit making song writer. Carol Klein became Carole King and one of the best solo artists of all time. But her success as an artist didn’t happen until her personal life fell apart leading her to find her true inner voice which would then take her to the personal and professional heights she had dreamed of.
Playing an important role in King’s life was her mother; Genie Klein. And playing Genie on the Beautiful tour is Suzanne Grodner, a longtime Broadway actor. Grodner has been performing for quite some time on and off Broadway and her extensive resume includes roles in Bye Birdie, Cakewalk and The Rose Tattoo. Grodner began her illustrious career in high school and went on to study her craft in college and grad school before making her way to New York City where she has lived and performed for over 30 years. “I Moved to NYC and as a performer have experienced every high and every low,” said Grodner. “But I have always been working and have never taken that for granted.”
Grodner was an understudy for the Broadway production of Beautiful when the actor who played Genie decided to take a break for vacation and Grodner filled in. Grodner was then contacted by the same casting director who offered her the role of Genie for the tour. And although the role of Genie was one Grodner was familiar with, she was more than excited to get insight from King herself. “I got a couple of chances to speak with Carole when she attended our shows on the road, she liked to surprise us. Genie was a huge influence on Carole in so many ways. She was a pianist of concert level, playwright, director and actress. She was highly influential especially as a young woman.” Grodner added that Carole worked in a male dominated industry and that was hard for her mom. “Genie understood how difficult it was to achieve success and she was very protective of Carole. But she also understood the creative drive and need for Carole to express herself. Genie Became Carole’s biggest cheerleader and as a mother and daughter they have a big moment when Genie tells her daughter to go and follow her dream.”
Grodner said that it is an honor for her to bring Genie to the stage and to the audience each night. “Genie’s words are almost verbatim from conversations between Carole and her mom. She was a pivotal person and guided her daughter in both personal and professional areas of her life. It is such an honor to be Carole’s mom every night. I am very lucky.”
In addition to Beautiful being a wonderful true story about Carole King’s rise to fame, there are the fabulous and famous songs and according to Grodner, audiences are in for an amazing musical experience. “There are nights when I feel like I am in a rock concert,” she laughed. “The audience is so in touch with the music, they let the songs wash over them and we can actually hear the audience say ooh and aah as each of the songs start.” Grodner added that after every show there are always several fans who will stop by and share how the songs bring back so many memories for them.
And many audience members are quite surprised at just how many songs King has written. “The first act has so much music that people don’t associate with Carole. Back then people wrote music for other acts and sometimes in teams. Donnie Kirshner, for example, brought lyricists, composers and singers together in teams and would tell them that he needed a song for The Shirelles and the teams would work madly to present the best song the next day.” Grodner said you hear King’s songs but had no idea she helped write them. “Loco Motion”, “Loving Feeling”; they were hers.”
And of course, there are the songs that King wrote and performed as a solo artist. “The audiences go on a great ride in the second act when we hear the music associated with Carole; “You Make Me Feel Like A Natural Woman”, “I Feel the Earth Move” and of course Beautiful”.” Grodner lastly added that Beautiful: The Carole King Musical is a show great for ages 10 and up. “There are some mature themes but no bad language. In our audiences we see teens to people in their 80’s! This is a great for mothers and daughters, date night, anyone who loves music! It’s a show about a girl who fought against all odds, it’s a show for young people and shows them what your life can be if you follow your dreams. I hear people say this is the best show they have ever seen. It’s a BLAST!”
Beautiful: The Carole King Musical will be at the Orpheum Theater from Tuesday, April 4 through Sunday, April 9, 2017. Tickets are available at TicketOmaha.com or by calling 402.345.0606 or by visiting the Ticket Omaha Box Office inside the Holland Performing Arts Center. Tickets start at $30 each.