“Beautiful: The Carole King Musical” – The Phoenix Theatre Company

Theater Review – March 9, 2024


“Beautiful: The Carole King Musical”
The Phoenix Theatre Company, Mainstage Theatre
Phoenix AZ

By Chris Curcio
Theater Critic

Not only is singer/songwriter Carole King’s rich and interesting life amazing but “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical” includes most of her hit tunes. The Phoenix Theatre Company’s (TPTC) marvelously explosive staging crafted by the company’s producing artistic director Michael Barnard is aided by a superb cast who sing, act, and dance with spit-fire precision keeping the audience joyously entranced for two-and-a-half hours of exciting theater.

TPTC’s shows, especially their musicals, have grown increasingly impressive over the seasons and with “Beautiful” the production rivals the dynamic original Broadway production I saw in 2014 that starred the great Jessie Mueller as Carole King, plus the indelible talents of Jake Epstein, Anika Larsen, and Jarrod Spector as those closest to King.

For the local production, Hahnna Christianson plays King and the petite performer with an impish grin and an always present glint in her eyes displayed the remarkable talent necessary to portray this major artist.  She sings exquisitely and employes King’s trademark word patterns.  Her renditions of such King standards as “So Far Away,” “Will You Love Me Tomorrow” (also stunningly sung by a four-person ensemble playing The Shirelles), and “One Fine Day” among the many King tunes included are right-on.  After seeing Mueller, I thought no one would be able to successfully play King but Christianson is a flawless exception.

Caelan Creaser plays King’s trusted friend Cynthia Weil with sensitivity and a closeness to King that is perfect while Justin Albinder’s Barry Mann is attentive as her romantic and songwriting partner.  Naysh Fox is initially loving toward King as her first husband Gerry Goffin but he turns hostile and mean when drink overtakes his life in a seamless portrait.  Sally Jo Bannow is a hoot as King’s challenging mother Genie Klein and D. Scott Withers is a stalwart Donny Kirschner who guides King’s career mostly for the best but occasionally for his own interests.  A large ensemble handles smaller roles while singing and dancing with a sleek Broadway professionalism.

The set serves the plot’s many locales and the changes are carefully coordinated into Barnard’s smart and stylish staging.  Costumes further typify the times of King’s career right down to the distinctive period colors.  Kevin Robert White’s glitzy band triumphs on every familiar tune.

“Beautiful: The Carole King Musical” brings the splash and dazzle of Broadway musicals to Phoenix in an impeccably entertaining and exuberant production.  Once word gets out, tickets will no doubt be scarce so make your decision to go now. “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical” continues through April 28.  To order tickets, call The Phoenix Theatre Company box office at 602-254-2151 or order tickets online at www.phoenixtheatre.com.

Grade: A