Feel the Earth Move Under Your Feet at the Erie Playhouse
Beautiful: The Carole King Musical comes to the LECOM stage
BEGINNING FRIDAY, SEPT. 15
The Erie Playhouse is bringing the iconic music of Carole King to the stage in Beautiful: The Carole King Musical. First premiering in 2013 at the Curran Theater in San Francisco before its Broadway debut the following year, the Tony Award-winning musical "tells the inspiring true story of Carole King, from her early days as a Brooklyn teenager struggling to enter the record business, to her years as a chart-topping musical legend. Beautiful covers the pop classics she wrote for the biggest acts in music, to her chart-topping success with Tapestry."
Looking at the success of the original Broadway run and subsequent touring productions, the Erie Playhouse saw the potential it had with local audiences. "It was a new title for the Playhouse and for the Erie region, which was definitely exciting and a draw," describes Emily Cassano, the director for Beautiful. "This seemed like the right show at the right time. I loved the music, and I knew it would draw a fun crowd in terms of who would audition."
"I began listening to the Tapestry album pretty close to when we were having auditions, and that's what I've been listening to this whole summer," said Kate Thiem, who portrays Carole King. "It's very intimidating to portray a real person, especially somebody people know and love and have adored for years."
Thiem prepared vigorously for the role, from reading King's memoir and listening to her discography to watching live performances in order to perfect the nuances of the voice. "I got to a point with it where I was obsessing about trying to make it perfect that I realized it was never going to be perfect because you can't be somebody else. You have different voices, you look different, and you're not going to pull off a perfect impersonation."
Finding her own voice in King's music was immensely rewarding. "The minute that I realized that it didn't have to be 100 percent Carole King was a freeing moment," Thiem recalled. "There are people who have said they are looking forward to it because they love her music and are fans of just her, not even the musical. I don't want to let those people down, but at the same time, you want it to be more than just an impersonation. I try to find the small things that [King] and I possibly have in common to add that part of my personality into it because I've lived it too."
"I wanted to make sure we were doing the history justice," Cassano explained on her approach to directing the show. There is a focus on the dynamics between songwriting duos Carole King and Gerry Goffin as they compete with Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil to write for well-known musical acts. "I tried to encourage [the cast] to take their own perspective on each character based on what we know. Everybody came in with a great knowledge of these historical people. We've all done our research and shared it with each other."
King's music has resonated with the entire cast during this production, being felt every second on stage. "The thing that I've learned from listening and performing her music is that it can be simple," Thiem described. "[It's] the simplicity of her voice coupled with the wonderful chord progression. She's singing directly to you, and it's conversational. The focus is completely on the voice, and there's this honest quality about it that you identify within the lyrics."
As the production prepares for opening night, Cassano has a message for Erie audiences. "We could not have found a better person to portray Carol than Kate Thiem. All of these performances give life, meaning, and passion to these songs that everybody knows and are not to be missed. I hope everyone who sees this has a renewed interest in the time period and work that was put into these masterpieces."
Fridays and Saturdays through Sept. 30 at 7:30 p.m., Sundays 2 p.m. // Erie Playhouse, 13 W. 10th St. // $17.49-$27.40 // For tickets and info: erieplayhouse.org