Woody Allen sat aisle right next to his wife Soon Yi opening night of the new musical Beautiful, about fellow Brooklynite Carole King. Well, everybody has to be somewhere! Where he wasn't? Picking up the Golden Globes Cecil B. DeMille Lifetime Achievement Award in Los Angeles. Diane Keaton accepted the statue for him. Nevertheless, he endured his own limelight, grimacing as a fan took a picture with an iPhone. Nearby Jerry Seinfeld chatted with Katie Couric, and checked the football scores on the way out. But hey, noted a companion, at least he was there. Elsewhere present: Clive Davis and Phil Collins. Sting and Trudie Styler just back from L.A. joined in for the party at Cipriani 42nd Street. Whatever was going on out west, the place to be in New York on Sunday was the Stephen Sondheim Theater. That's because the show Beautiful really is.
Carole King's career as songwriter/ performer is the classic story of leaving Brooklyn in the manner of Broadway Bound, in the great Neil Simon tradition. This, however, is the girl's version, and coming from that midcentury era, the journey involves defying mom (Liz Larsen), teen pregnancy, and marriage to a man who was too young to settle into domesticity, her partner the gifted lyricist Gerry Goffin (Jake Epstein). Along the way, the songwriting couple competes with another talented pair Cynthia Weil (Anika Larsen) and Barry Mann, a charming hypochondriac performed by Jersey Boys alum, Jarrod Spector. Under Marc Bruni's fine direction, the parallels in career and love resonate. Writer Douglas McGrath based the book on extensive interviews with the four principals, pointing out that Gerry, despite his philandering was a sensitive lyricist having penned the words to "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow" and "Natural Woman."
King did not attend the opening, many believe because of the difficulty of watching the painful aspects of her life unfold. Unless she wore a disguise, audiences might be distracted by her reactions. No stranger to Broadway, Carole King was in Blood Brothers. Jessie Mueller, who channels her sound and manners so thrillingly --as her performance reflects King's growing confidence accompanying herself at The Bitter End and recording the now classic Tapestry-- said she never saw Carole King perform live. This star said she learned about King through listening to James Taylor, and researching, discovering Tapestry in capturing her subject's open energy. "The album stands the test of time," she said, "And it always will."
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