Beautiful is not only an entertaining musical biography of the incomparable Carole King, but a retrospective on the gifted songwriters of the ’60s (King, her husband and partner Gerry Goffin, and the team of Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil) whose tunes recorded by others dominated the American pop charts.
Unlike some jukebox musicals which are little more than impersonations augmented by screen projections, Beautiful, which I caught last month at L.A.’s Pantages Theatre and which is now at the Civic Theatre in downtown San Diego through Aug. 7, is a play with music–and what music! If you ever needed a reminder of King’s towering talent, Beautiful is it. You also learn about the road she took from songwriter-for-hire to solo superstar in the early ’70s. On this national tour of Douglas McGrath’s Beautiful, the Carole King role is very ably handled by Abby Mueller, whose sister, Jessie, won a Tony for her original Broadway performance.
Less interesting but potentially delightful to music historians or Baby Boomers is the side plot involving Mann (Ben Fankhauser) and Weil (Becky Gulsvig), who tried to go headto-head with King and Goffin in hit-making. Also depicted on stage are music luminaries who sang both teams’ hits, including the Drifters, the Shirelles and the Righteous Brothers.
Beautiful: The Carole King Musical runs through Aug. 7 at the San Diego Civic Theatre, downtown. $22.50 to $187.50.broadwaysd.com
Moonlight Stage Production’s summer seasons always offer musicals that are family friendly. Some, however, will be more appealing to adult audiences, like its first show of the 2016 season, Sister Act. Others seem strictly for the kiddies. So it goes with Peter Pan, which runs at Moonlight’s outdoor amphitheatre through Aug. 6.
The flying scenes and skirmishes with pirates will dazzle the young ones, and the athletic Misty Cotton is a likable Peter Pan (though neither she nor the spirit of Mary Martin can make the rooster-imitating “I Gotta Crow” anything more than annoying). Robert J. Townsend sinks his teeth into the role of villainous Captain Hook, and James Vasquez turns in the choicest comic part as Hook’s lackey, Mr. Smee.
Peter Pan runs through Aug. 6 at the Moonlight Amphitheatre in Vista. $10-$55. moonlightstage.com
The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged) [revised]: This fast-paced performance will feature three actors performing 37 Bard plays in 97 minutes. Presented by Luminary Arts, it opens Aug. 5 at Patio Playhouse in Escondido. luminaryarts.org
Last Train to Nibroc: Arlene Hutton’s moving play about two strangers who meet on a train in the ‘40s and whose lives clash and coalesce in the subsequent years. Presented by Different Stages, it opens Aug. 5 at the La Jolla Commons Theatre. differentstages.biz
The Music Man: The Tony Award-winning musical comedy about a salesman who attempts to con a small town, but ends up falling in love with the town’s librarian. Presented by Ovation Theatre, it opens Aug. 5 at the Howard Brubeck Theatre at Palomar College in San Marcos. ovationtheatre.org
Oklahoma!: Two cowboys fight for the women they love in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s classic musical. Directed by Teddy Eck, it opens in previews Aug. 5 at the New Village Arts Theatre in Carlsbad.
The Last Five Years: This two-person musical play about a tumultuous relationship is told backwards with the actors also doubling as musicians. Written by Jason Robert Brown, it opens in previews Aug. 6 at ion’s BLKBOX Theatre in Hillcrest.
A Conversation with Edith Head: Susan Claassen stars in this one-woman-show about one of Hollywood’s most iconic costume designers. It opens for two performances Aug. 8 at the North Coast Repertory Theatre in Solana Beach. northcoastrep.org
80 Days: A Musical: Student performers present the musical version of the adventures of Phileas Fogg and his attempt to go Around the World in 80 Days. Presented by the Grossmont College Summer Theatre Arts Conservatory, it runs through Aug. 5 at the Stagehouse Theatre at Grossmont College in El Cajon.
The Best Goodbye: A coming of age story about four suburban kids who are trying their best to be rappers in ‘90s Oxnard, California. Directed by Patrick Kelly and written by local poet Gill Sotu, it runs through Aug. 6 at Park Arts Black Box in University Heights.
Ain’t Misbehavin’: A musical revue of the black music of the ‘20s and ‘30s, as well as the Harlem Renaissance movement. Written and directed by Richard Maltby, Jr., it runs through Aug. 7 at the North Coast Repertory Theatre in Solana Beach. northcoastrep.org
American Rhythm: An original musical production that uses the most memorable songs of the last 100 years. Conceived by Robert Smyth, it runs through Aug. 7 at the Lamb’s Players Theatre in Coronado. lambsplayers.org
Beautiful: The Carol King Musical: The touring Broadway production of the Tony Award-winning musical about the legendary songwriter behind hits like “Natural Woman,” “It’s Too Late,” and countless others. It runs through Aug. 7 at the San Diego Civic Theatre in the Gaslamp. broadwaysd.com
The Dixie Swim Club: Four comedic vignettes of five longtime female friends who have reunited every year for 33 years at a North Carolina beach house. Directed by Jerry Pilato, it runs through Aug. 7 at the Lamplighters Community Theatre in La Mesa. lamplighterslamesa.com
Hamlet: When the prince of Denmark’s father mysteriously dies, he sets out to find the truth and get revenge in Shakespeare’s classic play. Directed by Tom Haine, it runs through Aug. 7 at the Coronado Playhouse. coronadoplayhouse.com
Funny Business: The So-Cal premiere of this British farce about a seedy hotel whose guests and staff are thrown into upheaval after the arrival of a notorious journalist. Presented by PowPAC, it runs through Aug. 14 at the Poway Community Theatre. powpac.org
Sense & Sensibility: The West Coast premiere of the musical based on the Jane Austen novel about the perseverant Dashwood sisters. Adapted by Paul Gordon, it runs through Aug. 14 at the Old Globe Theatre in Balboa Park. theoldglobe.org
Junk: The Golden Age of Debt: This world-premiere dramedy from Pulitzer Prize winning author Ayad Akhtar centers on a brash genius who sets out to change the world of finance in ‘80s America. It runs through Aug. 21 at the La Jolla Playhouse. lajollaplayhouse.org
Avenue Q: A musical comedy about a recent college grad who moves to NYC and is surrounded by foul-mouthed puppets. Presented by the OB Theatre Company, it runs through Aug. 28 at the OB Playhouse in Ocean Beach. obtheatrecompany.com
Gypsy: Stephen Sondheim’s lavish musical about an overbearing stage mother’s attempts to make her daughters into stars of the stage. Presented by Cygnet Theatre, it runs through Sept. 4 at the Old Town Theatre. cygnettheatre.com
Meteor Shower: In this world premiere comedy, sparks fly when two couples get together to watch a backyard meteor shower. Written by Steve Martin, it runs through Sept. 11 at the Old Globe Theatre in Balboa Park. theoldglobe.org