For most women of a certain age, the next line of Carole King’s mega hit melodiously rolls off the tongue.
By Janice Llanes Fabry
Stayed in bed all morning just to pass the time
There’s something wrong here there can be no denying.
One of us is changing or maybe we just stopped trying.
For most women of a certain age, the next line of Carole King’s mega hit melodiously rolls off the tongue. “It’s Too Late” was released as a single in 1971 and, Baby, it reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100 charts, winning the 1972 Grammy for Record of the Year. How perfectly lovely to see “Beautiful,” Broadway’s new musical on King’s career with an old friend. Like me, she remembers the B-side on the 45 was “I Feel The Earth Move” (that sounds alien now doesn’t it?). Both songs were included in “Tapestry,” one of the best-selling albums of all time. It is to this anthem of the ’70s that “Beautiful,” at the Stephen Sondheim Theatre, leads us and we follow all too eagerly.
We’re taken along King’s rise to stardom from the time she was 16 and met her future writing partner and husband, Gerry Goffin, at Queens College, where my girlfriend and I would meet some years later. As lifelong New Yorkers, we both appreciated the city’s backdrop role in the play. King was originally from Brooklyn, the Don Kirshner studio where she wrote much of her early catalogue was located in midtown Manhattan, and her career culminates with a concert at Carnegie Hall.
Another delightful element is the spirited and competitive, yet warm relationship the prolific King and Goffin shared with fellow songwriters Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil. The show takes full advantage of showcasing many of the immortal pop classics they all wrote for other artists, “Will You Love Me Tomorrow” for the Shirelles, “Locomotion” for Little Eva, “On Broadway” for the Drifters, and “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling” for the Righteous Brothers, to name a few.
Kudos to Jessie Mueller, who plays King flawlessly, down to the long curly locks and raspy voice we’ve all come to know. When she sings “So Far Away” and “You’ve Got a Friend,” I couldn’t help but be transported to a free concert I attended in Central Park in 1973. It had enough of an impact that years later, I chose “what was your first concert” as my credit card security question. Carole King, of course. I’ll always remember her pounding on the piano and singing her pop tunes as a childhood friend and I sat on the Great Lawn mesmerized.
Grass stains, marijuana wafting in the air, and 65,000 fans chanting “Carole” may have been the coolest way to spend an afternoon when I was 13, but today, a matinee holds my fascination. If it evokes nostalgic memories with good friends, all the better.
“Cinderella” at the Broadway Theatre took another girlfriend and me back to the 1965 television production starring the winsome, doe-eyed Lesley Ann Warren. While the children in the audience may have been captivated by the fairy tale, we were enthralled with the familiar and beloved Rodgers and Hammerstein’s syrupy compositions, which never grow old. We recognized the opening strains of one song after another, from “In My Own Little Corner” to “Impossible.”
However, in an updated twist, this “Cinderella’s” heroine is no damsel waiting for her prince and boldly introduces democratic ideals to the kingdom. Although there’s merit to modernizing the message, taking liberties with the original tale trips up this new version. Call me old-fashioned, but I liked it better when Cinderella actually lost her glass slipper. Nevertheless, it was still an enchanting way to spend an afternoon even before “Nanny” star Fran Drescher and pop star Carly Rae Jepsen were cast as the stepmother and Cinderella.
Another feel good matinee my sister and I thoroughly enjoyed was the 2013 Tony Award winning musical “Kinky Boots” at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre. We both remember the 1980s hits written by the free-spirited, orange-haired Cyndi Lauper, who penned the tantalizing, exhilarating score. Like her iconic “Girls Just Want To Have the Fun,” “Time After Time,” and “True Colors,” “Kinky Boots’” compositions are uplifting, poignant and memorable all at once.
Lauper teamed up with playwright Harvey Fierstein and the passionate story of a shoe factory owner and a sassy drag queen comes alive with a lot of heart. The performances are meticulously executed to boot. Winning the 2013 Tony Award for best lead actor, Billy Porter’s portrayal of the feisty transgender artist Lola is edgy, yet endearing. It takes a special drag queen to pull off the show stopping “Sex Is In The Heel” number. When the full company performed “Raise You Up” in the finale, we couldn’t help but soar out of the theater and into the next few days.
Next up: “If Then.” A very clever friend organized a neighborhood girlfriends’ outing, and arranged for a group discount as well. The musical about a 40-year-old woman returning to New York for a fresh start opens this month at the Richard Rodgers Theatre. We’re looking forward to being swooped up by the powerful, gravity defying voice of the inimitable Idina Menzel, or as John Travolta likes to call her, Adele Dazeem.