REVIEW: CLP’s ‘Beautiful’ Hits All The Right Notes

Sidney Higgins leads the cast with a pitch perfect portrayal of King by showcasing a surprising vocal vulnerability that draws audiences in and keeps them wanting more. This is no small feat given the role requires almost constant signing for two and a half hours. 

By Willie Caldwell

Beautiful: The Carole King Musical marks the beginning of the 10th year of Cincinnati Landmark Productions. CLP oversees the Warsaw Federal Incline Theater, Covedale Center for the Performing Arts, and the Madcap Education Center. The show, directed by Jay Goodlett, is a strong season opening for one of Cincinnati’s most beloved semi-professional theater companies, placing community at the heart of the production.

Background and Story

Beautiful tells the story of legendary singer/songwriter Carole King whose hits established her as one of the most successful female songwriters of the 20th century. King is credited with 118 pop hits on the Billboard Hot 100, four Grammy Awards, and sold more than 75 million copies of her album Tapestry, which held the record for most weeks at No. 1 by a female artist for more than 20 years.

Split into two acts, Beautiful takes audiences on a journey through King’s early life and career working for famous music publisher Donnie Kirshner at the Brill Building in Manhattan. While attending Queens College, King meets a handsome young lyricist named Gerry Goffin who becomes her husband and longtime writing partner. The young couple befriend another famous writing duo, Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann, who are also employed at 1650 Broadway music house. The two teams turn out an amazing parade of songs including “Up on the Roof,” “On Broadway,” “The Loco-Motion,” and “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin.” 

What follows is a stunning pastiche of hit after hit performed by some of the most recognizable artists of the 50s and 60s including The Drifters, The Shirelles, Little Eva, The Righteous Brothers, Janelle Woods, and more. Fans of the era will recognize some of King’s most famous songs including:  “It Might as well Rain Until September,” “Some Kind of Wonderful,” “Happy Days are Here Again,” and “One Fine Day,” among others.  

CLP's Beautiful:The Carole King Story
CLP’s Beautiful:The Carole King Story

Production Team of CLP’s ‘Beautiful’

The play’s ensemble is tasked with bringing these legendary acts to life through a cacophony of lights, costumes, movement, and motion that the Motown music genre is known for. The ensemble does a wonderful job bringing high energy and a sense of campiness to their scenes. The infectious levels of fun the ensemble brings with them makes up for a few pitchy harmonies here and there. Choreographer Jenny Goodlett does a lovely job of capturing the movement of the era with simple but effective routines that look as though they belong on American Bandstand.

Scenic Designer Brett Bowling’s set is simple but effective. A large permanent set piece frames the majority of the action on stage with smaller scenes and vignettes taking place in strategic areas both upstage and downstage of the main playing space. While a few of the transitions feel challenging, the cast does a strong job of moving quickly between scenes without losing the pacing.

The music for the production is an audio track which requires actors on stage to pretend they are playing live instruments. In most cases this isn’t an issue, however there are several areas where the fake pianos and unplugged guitars seem to get in the way rather than help sell the story. In most productions of Beautiful, the actress playing King is also expected to play the piano live, which adds to the magic of the experience. Landmark’s production does a strong job of remaining musical despite the lack of live instrumentation.

Performances in CLP’s ‘Beautiful’

Sidney Higgins leads the cast with a pitch perfect portrayal of King by showcasing a surprising vocal vulnerability that draws audiences in and keeps them wanting more. This is no small feat given the role requires almost constant signing for two and a half hours. 

Higgins’ naive vulnerability is balanced by Greg Moore who plays Gerry Goffin, King’s husband and long time writing partner. Moore and Higgins work to find their chemistry as the play progresses through nearly two decades of hit songs and social progress. The play paints Goffin as a wandering antagonist struggling with depression and infidelity which makes it difficult to find likability with the character. 

The chemistry between Cynthia Weil (Amanda Marasch) and Barry Mann (Evan Rodgers) is fun and flirty with the two often serving in the role of comic relief throughout some of the play’s more dramatic moments. While at times the pacing feels a little like a sitcom, the performances all have heart and wave a rich “Tapestry” that celebrates the legacy of Carole King while uplifting the community players of Cincinnati.


Beautiful: The Carole King Musical is a strong opening to the 10th anniversary season of the Cincinnati Landmark Productions Warsaw Federal Incline Theater. Fans of Kings music will want to experience how beautiful Beautiful can be. 

Tickets to CLP’s ‘Beautiful’

Beautiful: The Carole King Musical runs from April 17th – May 12 at the Warsaw Federal Incline Theater located at 801 Matson Pl, Cincinnati, OH 45204. Tickets can be purchased at the box office, online at, or by calling 513-241-6550.

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