A triumph of the artistic uses of the theory of interchangeable parts, Beautiful: The Carole King Musical moves despite being built on the chassis of Jersey Boys. As always in nostalgic songbook musicals, the setting is the ’60s, the last decade whose music people agree on, and the book (by Douglas McGrath) reduces all complex feeling to simple declaratives. But it’s still a hit.
Since singer-songwriter Carole King toiled with her lyricist husband Gerry Goffin (Jake Epstein) at Aldon Music at 1650 Broadway, we get treated to Drifters, Shirelles, and Righteous Brothers impersonations. After the marriage and the stock of ringers like “The Loco-Motion” (by King and Goffin) or a garishly overarranged “On Broadway” (by friends Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil) have run dry, the show surges to its can’t-miss finale: the wonderful, easygoing Jessie Mueller as King at her piano, easing into the rich chords of “It’s Too Late” and other undiminished gems from her 1971 masterpiece, Tapestry.
Beautiful peaks when the pop hits rise right from King’s life. When she and Goffin are first facing trouble, she leaves sheet music of a song out for him to set words to when he finally comes home; the next morning, she chokes up singing “Will You Love Me Tomorrow?” for the first time. Bring some tissues and a boomer.