Excerpt: Beautiful: The Carole King Musical

She was selling her songs while still a teenager and rose to fame as a singer and songwriter whose work became an indelible part of American music of the 60s and 70s.

Carole King had no intention of becoming a performer, but after teaming up with co-writer Gerry Goffin (and several others including James Taylor), she took the stage herself and scored a breakthrough with Tapestry. Broadway at the Hobby presents the musical on its Houston debut for three days in early June.

Sara King (no relation) was there when Magnificent: Carole King’s Musical hit the stage in 2013, opening on Broadway on January 12, 2014. Portrayed by Marilyn Wald in the original Broadway cast, she starred as songwriter Cynthia Weil for several months, so she was already familiar with the part when the national tour contacted her and asked if she wanted to play Weil for this leg of the tour. She said yes.

“Coming back to a show I helped create, coming back to a show I loved alongside one of my best friends [Sara Sheperd who plays Carole King] and coming out of that dark two year period without a job… and what do you know, it hit me.”

The Tony and Grammy award-winning show tells the story of Carole King from age 16 to 28. One song after another – by Gerry Goffin, Carole King, Barry Mann and Weil among others – dominates this musical jukebox. King’s songs include “So Far Away”, “Will You Love Me Tomorrow”, “It’s Too Late”, and “Beautiful”.

King, who spoke to us by phone as the tour bus headed to the theater where he was playing in Oxford, Mississippi, was with the show on Broadway for four and a half years before leaving. She has since moved to Los Angeles to develop her television and film career when, out of the blue, she got a call to play Weil on tour. After the pandemic, she jumped at the chance.

Musical theater has always appealed to Sara King. Her first audition was when she was 7, and at 8 she was hired to do dinner theater.

Between his junior and senior year in high school, King moved from Baltimore to League City. She spent her senior year of high school at Clear Creek High. She studied voice in her senior year with Mary Starnes who was with Theater Under the Stars.

She received her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Musical Theater from the Shenandoah Conservatory in Virginia, then moved to New York to pursue her career. Now she’s back with Beautiful in Houston where part of his family still lives.

“Cynthia was a pioneer in her field. If you just look at Cynthia Weil’s catalog, Barry Mann, they were dominating,” King said. The Righteous Brothers No. 1 hit by the duo and Phil Spector “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling” is also included in the musical. Despite the fact that Weil’s work continued for decades — she wrote “Somewhere Out There” for the An American Tail soundtrack with Mann, James Ingram and James Horner — she never received the kind of recognition that her friend Carole King received.

“Maybe it was because she hadn’t recorded her own album. Cynthia never recorded an album, but that wasn’t her thing. She’s a lyricist,” King said. “Some of your favorite songs you listen to, you look at the credits and it’s Cynthia Weil. I think she’s just outstanding and extremely talented.”

When asked why she thought the series worked so well, she replied:

Beautiful is about hope. It’s a question of perseverance. It’s about picking up the pieces and starting from scratch,” she said. “And the songs are just nonstop hit after hit. It’s just a great story of succeeding and shining and harnessing your own power and becoming your own amazing person.”

Performances are scheduled June 3-5 at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, and 7:30 p.m. Sunday at the Hobby Center, 800 Bagby. For more information, call 800-982-2787 or visit thehobbycenter.org or broadwayatthehobbycenter.com. $35 to $90.