Beautiful: The Carole King
Musical lives up to its title

The not-to-be-missed show at the Segal Centre extended to November 12

By Byron Toben

November 1, 2023

Wow! The latest Segal Centre production, Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, in collaboration with the Manitoba Theatre Centre, is the richest in dancing, costume switches and audience applause, all of which are expected at the Segal, that we have witnessed for some time.

The show was preceded by an in-person Sunday at the Segal on October 15, in which CJAD host Sarah Deshaies assembled a foursome of experts (two Montreal Gazette critics and singers, Ranee Lee and Sarah Segal-Lazar) to discuss the intergenerational aspects of popular music in the 1960s and 70s. It introduced four days of previews until the official press opening on October 19, which I attended. By then, public interest had led to the extension of the original November 5 termination date to November 12.

Beautiful: The Carole King Musical

Darren Martens as Gerry and Tess Berger as Carole

The show contains 28 songs, most credited to Ms. King, who started writing songs even as a pre-teen. She went on to write many with her first husband, Gerry Goffin, and with friends Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann. One song, Oh Carole, was written about her by her high school chum, Neil Sedaka.

A lively band of eight (three keyboards, trumpet, reeds, guitar, upright bass and drums) kept things moving along under the musical direction of Floyd Ricketts. At the same time, the inspired choreography by Jaz Sealey had the audience snapping their fingers, the whole excellently woven together by director Kelly Thornton in her Segal debut.

The performers were all top-notch, whether in roles great or small. As Carole, Tess Berger was perfect, matched by Darren Martens as Gerry. I was particularly impressed by Segal veteran Ellen David as Carole’s mother, Genie, who waved a cigarette before speaking. Laura Olafson as Cynthia and Mike Melino as Barry sure suited the bill, as did Cory Wojcik as record producer Donny Kirshner.

Performing as the female quartet The Shirelles, the male quartet The Drifters and the duo The Righteous Brothers were ten talented people: Alana Randall, Louise Camilleri, Davis Okey-Azunnah, Jeremy Carver-James, Matthew Fletcher, Ruth Acheampong, Lisa Bell, Andre Anthony, Dakota Jamal Wellman and Jonathan Patterson.

Wow! The latest Segal Centre production, Beautiful: The Carole King Musical… is the richest in dancing, costume switches and audience applause… that we have witnessed for some time.

Congrats, too, to Segal artistic Director Lisa Rubin for choosing this show, casting director Rachelle Glait, and stage manager Melanie St-Jacques, who had her hands full with frequent costume changes as many performers doubled as an ensemble.

Highlight songs in this show include the title Beautiful and, of course, You Made Me Feel Like a Natural Woman.

Carole King, even as a child, was noted for having perfect pitch. Other famous female singers so gifted include Ella Fitzgerald, Mariah Carey, Julie Andrews and Barbra Streisand – solid company indeed!

This is one production that I might see twice, which I rarely do. Don’t miss it!

Feature image: the cast of Beautiful: The Carole King Musical
Images: courtesy of the Segal Centre

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Byron Toben, a past president of The Montreal Press Club, has been’s theatre reviewer since July 2015. Previously, he wrote for since terminated websites Rover Arts and Charlebois Post, print weekly The Downtowner, and print monthly The Senior Times. He also is an expert consultant on U.S. work permits for Canadians.

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