For two nights during the first week of February, the life of songwriting legend Carole King will unfold on the stage of The Granada Theatre during “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical.” Starring Kennedy Caughell in the titular role, “Beautiful” recounts the singer-songwriter’s rise to stardom and writing partnership with her husband Gerry Golfin in a way that the actress hopes touches audiences’ hearts and gets them “laughing, clapping, and dancing by the end.”
Since she has been a fan of the show since she first saw it performed on Broadway, saying yes to playing Carole King was a no-brainer for Ms. Caughell. In an interview with the News-Press, the actress stated that her leading performance as Ms. King is one of her biggest roles yet and is made even larger by the fact that the character is a real-life person who remains musically active to this day.
“It’s the first time that I’ve been gifted with a character who is this large and is not a fictional character,” she stated.
She added that the pressure of putting on a truthful Carole King performance pushes her to her limits as an actress and makes participating in this performance “an amazing, terrifying ride.”
In order to give a performance that doesn’t come off as just an impersonation of Ms. King, Ms. caughell did extensive research on the singer-songwriter that included reading her book “A Natural Woman” and watching interviews with her. While observing the latter, Ms. Caughell particularly watched Ms. King’s syntax and how she would react to situations. Once she had an understanding of Ms. King’s reactions, Ms. Caughell found common ground between them and herself.
“I marry that with who Kennedy is so there’s truth to the character and I’m not just doing an impersonation,” she said.
As she looked for a way inside the role of Carole King, Ms. Caughell found the character’s boundless confidence fascinating. Despite people telling her that she was wasting time by writing songs, Ms. King kept working as a tunesmith for no other reason than that it was something she really wanted to do. By the time she was a teenager, Ms. King was penning major hits for pop singers and groups. Many were written in collaboration with her first husband, Gerry Goffin. What also caught the actress’ attention was how Ms. King’s pursuit of songwriting for the love of it caused her to never view herself as making it as a woman in a male-dominated world. In Ms. Caughell’s view, everyone would accomplish so much more with their lives if they had Ms. King’s “blind confidence.”
Another aspect of the singer-songwriter that made Ms. Caughell admire her was how she showed strength by forgiving when it was difficult to do so. Without divulging too much of the musical’s storyline, the actress explained that for all the success Ms. King experienced in her professional life, her personal life and marriage contained much adversity, which she ultimately decided to resolve with forgiveness rather than vengeance.
Of all the classic songs featured in “Beautiful,” Ms. Caughell named “Will You Love Me Tomorrow” as her favorite because of its simplicity and the depth of Mr. Goffin’s lyrics. Throughout all the performances she has done with the touring production, the Carole King solo song “It’s Too Late” has gotten the biggest response from audiences, who react to the tune the very second it starts. The February 5 performance of “Beautiful” will be Ms. Caughell’s first performance in Santa Barbara, and she hopes the local crowd will leave The Granada Theatre emotionally moved by Ms. King’s life story and the extensive songbook she has created throughout it.
“I hope they enjoy this musical legacy and have their hearts touched,” she said.
Both the February 5 and 6 performances of “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical” will begin at 7:30 p.m. at The Granada Theatre, located 1214 State Street. Tickets can be purchased online at www.granadasb.org.