REVIEW: Lexus Broadway in Boston’s ‘Beautiful: The Carole King Musical’ some kind of wonderful triumph

Triumph she does.  Carole King, one of the most successful songwriters of the latter part of the 20th century, had talent from the first time she walked in the studio at age 16.  This is not the average biopic where the protagonist has to overcome some sort of terrible tragedy or failure, but a woman on the move from the very start.

Boasting a library of hits before Carole even considers taking the stage to perform her own music, this show brings on the nostalgia of passing generations from the chic retro clothes to the distinctive music style.  It is a sweeping musical from a songwriter’s perspective with few low notes and anyway, why not pack a show with hits and a lighter story that just might leave you smiling?

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Sarah Bockel as Carole King Photo credit to Lexus Broadway in Boston

Lexus Broadway in Boston concluded Beautiful:  The Carole King Musical‘s run on Sunday, February 10.  Beautiful:  The Carole King Musical recently celebrated five years on Broadway.  Click here to see where this captivating show will be next.  Click here more on Broadway in Boston’s stellar season.

From the moment Carole makes contact with that baby grand piano for a lively rendition of I Feel the Earth Move, impressive, rolling sets transport her into her Brooklyn home where she first started writing.  Portrayed by Elise Vannerson throughout the show, Carole is introspective yet dreamy, seemingly more than ready for her life to take off.  Vannerson captures the essence of her ambition, shyness, and tenacity.  Her soaring vocals is an impressive tribute to Carole’s trademark voice.   Suzanne Grodner portrays Genie Klein, Carole King’s mother, with humorous, cynical sass and sensibility as she cuts Carole a deal.

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The Drifters: Darius Delk, Dimitri Joseph Moise, Deon Releford-Lee, and Nathan Andrew Riley Photo credit to Lexus Broadway in Boston

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The Shirelles:  Harper Miles, DeAnne Stewart, Danielle J. Summons, and Alexis Tidwell  Photo credit to Lexus Broadway in Boston

Dominating this tale is some of the most popular music of the 20th century and Beautiful offers a peek into how some of these songs hit the charts.  A rollicking mix of hits including There Goes My Baby and Yakety Yak encompasses the sensational 1650 Broadway Medley as a glittering display of guitars, scripts, music sheets, and sound systems hang in the background.  From shimmering gowns to some of the era’s most popular, colorful fashion trends, Allejo Vietti’s costume design blends perfectly with Joyce Chittick’s lively choreography, a compelling spectrum of classic dance moves and crazes of each era.  It’s an era so influenced by Carole King’s songwriting and that of her peers.

Beautiful cast

From Left to right: James Clow as Don Kirshner, Dylan S. Wallach as Gerry Goffin, Sarah Bockel as Carole King, Jacob Heimer as Barry Mann, and Alison Whitehurst as Cythia Weil Photo credit to Lexus Broadway in Boston

Beautiful:  The Carole King Musical is full of moments of light humor and endearing chemistry among the cast.  With smooth, pliable vocals, Dylan S. Wallach portrays idealistic, sharp, and a bit macho Gerry Goffin.  He and Elise Vannerson as Carole have charming chemistry and moments of cute awkwardness.  They complement each other and their duets are particularly memorable.  Alison Whitehurst as confident and driven Cynthia Weil and Jacob Heimer as hypochondriac Barry Mann make a fascinating comic duo.   James Clow is also impressive as warm, inventive, and open minded Don Kirshner, who always knows talent when he sees it.

Click here to see where Beautiful:  The Carole King Musical will be next.  Lexus Broadway in Boston’s upcoming performances include A Bronx Tale, Hello Dolly, Dear Evan Hanson, as well as the return of The Illusionists, Miss Saigon, Les Miserables.  Click here for a closer look at their season and follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

 

 

 

Jars of Clay, TobyMac, and For King and Country part of ‘Soulfest’s’ 20th anniversary concert celebration

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Credit to Gunstock Mountain Resort and Soulfest

Nestled in the White Mountains is a concert experience unlike any other.  Beautiful and uplifting, Soulfest is celebrating its 20th anniversary as a haven for fellowship and the Christian music scene in the stunning mountain setting from Thursday, August 3 through Saturday, August 5 at Gunstock Mountain in Gilford, NH.  In addition, this anniversary concert weekend will also include the Soulfest Kickoff Concert as well as the late night screening of the film, Priceless on Wednesday, August 2.  Click here for an inside look at this anniversary concert experience.

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Soulfest concert scene Photo credit to Soulfest

Co-founded by Dan Russell in 1998, Soulfest annually features an incredible repertoire on multiple stages, featuring 80 musical guests and inspirational speakers over a three day weekend in August.  With this year’s theme entitled ‘Music, Love, Action,’ the Soulfest Kickoff Concert includes performances by Grammy and Dove Award winners Jars of Clay, The Violet Burning, Rachel Taylor, and Dan Russell.  A few highlights spread out over the Inside Out, Mercy Street, and Revival stages are For King and Country, TobyMac, Crowder, Derek Minor, Moriah Peters, Lacey Sturm, Kardia, Project 86, Epic Season, The Light of Hope, as well as acoustic performances on the Mountain Top stage from Chasing the Light, Christopher Williams, Big Kettle Drum, and more.  Click here for this year’s milestone lineup and for tickets.

Soulfest Kickoff Concert

Kickoff concert lineup Photo courtesy of Soulfest

Not only is Soulfest a monumental musical event, it is also packed with exciting and informative workshops by Grammy-winning singer-songwriters, professors, New York bestselling authors, and much more.  This year, the Justice Center stage includes Morning Worship hosted by The Salvation Army and Soulfest Open Mic, the Inside Out stage features Musician’s Workshop with Paul Colman as well as Catholic Mass with Matt Maher, and the Mercy Street stage features a few performers in The Songwriters Circle.  Soulfest also offers an opportunity to meet some of the acclaimed performers in the Meet and Greet/VIP Lounge.

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Photo credit to Soulfest

Soulfest performers

Photo credit to Soulfest

Attendees are also invited to participate in activities onsite including Zip Line, Mini Golf, Paddleboats, Hiking, Mountain Biking, Kayaking, and more.  Kids’ activities zone includes an archery tent, video game hub, and there will also be a children’s ministry in front of a campfire.  Click here for more information.

Soulfest candlelight service

Candlelight service, part of Soulfest’s 20th anniversary celebration Photo credit to Soulfest

Soulfest is always looking for volunteers and are in need of 500 in order to run this three day festival.  Benefits of volunteering include free admission, free camping in volunteer section, and one free meal a day.   To learn about requirements and to register, click here.

Click here for full three day tickets, day passes, and evening passes.  Follow Soulfest on Twitter and Facebook for more details.

Multi-instrumentalist Sarah Blacker talks Salem, new dance sound, and upcoming concert at Club Passim

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Multi-instrumentalist Sarah Blacker Photo courtesy of Kimberly Marchand

Award-winning, Boston based singer-songwriter and dynamic, multi-instrumentalist Sarah Blacker is always listening for a new beat.  Her most recent album, In Waves, experiments with new rhythms and is a departure from her usual sundress rocker fare.  Her energetic, live performance is encouraging people to the dance floor and just may be the basis for her next album to be released early next year.  She will perform with the New England Groove Association at Club Passim, 47 Palmer Street on Saturday, January 7, just a few days shy of her birthday.  New Jersey based Greg Townsend of Perilune opens.  The concert starts at 8 p.m.  Click here for more on Sarah and here for ticket information!

Sarah Blacker, who also works as certified music therapist, talks about the inspiration behind In Waves, her exciting new sound, and why her music should not be referred to as folk.

Jeanne Denizard:  Before we talk about your latest album In Waves and your upcoming appearance at Club Passim on January 7, tell me about touring and what you did for the holidays.

Sarah Blacker:  We’ve been taking it a little slow around the holidays.  Since our last album In Waves was released in spring 2015, we’ve done some recordings for a new album in our music room.  We want to capture a live and comfortable homey vibe, something I haven’t really done yet besides demo and free downloads.  We’re doing an entire album like that.

I was recently in Beverly, Massachusetts and I sat in and sang with the Percy Hill Choir at the Paradise in Boston.  That was a real blast.  My touring partner and my sweetie, Aaron Katz and his band, Percy Hill had reunited.  I got to sing in their choir which was a lot of fun since I used to go see them in high school.

JD:  I understand you are currently living in Salem, Massachusetts and you are a talented multi-instrumentalist.

SB:  Yes, I play the ukulele, guitar, piano, and a little bit of percussion.  I used to play a little mandolin, but it’s been a while and I stopped writing on that.  Whatever I can write on is really the idea.  I usually travel with an electric and acoustic guitar and my ukulele.  Varying it up makes things a little more exciting for people in the audience, hearing different sounds, vibes, and styles.

JD:  Variety is always best for a live performance.

SB:  Exactly!  Aaron and I have been playing together a little over a year now and he plays drums and djembe, but we will do a lot of improvising live depending on who is playing with us.  We’ve been playing with this amazing keyboard player and calling ourselves Sarah Blacker and the New England Groove Association.  Lots of improvising and if people want to dance, we try to keep the music going.

JD:  You will be changing it up again for the next album.

SB:  A lot of people have requested an album that sounds live because so much of what we do is based around the energy that we capture live and people can experience the music at a physiological level.  Sometimes getting into the studio and doing so much flavoring and production and compression can take away the human element to it.  We’re trying to make something raw, human, and that represents a mission about that live music, the energy that we really believe in.

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Sarah Blacker with her electric guitar

JD:  Your latest album, In Waves, was a bit of a departure from your well known sound.  What inspired that?

SB:  I think you get pigeonholed if you play an acoustic guitar.  A lot of people tend to think that I play folk music and I never felt like my music is classified as folk.  My sound has roots in classic rock, jazz, and a lot of pop music, and grunge from a lot of singer-songwriters from the 90s.  I’ve been trying to steer away from that.  I thought maybe I should put something out that shows another side to what I do and where I came up as a musician.

JD:  The title track, In Waves, has a rich, rhythmic beat to it.

SB:  Thank you.  My on and off bassist and producer, Sean McLaughlin, was a key element in coming up with that driving rhythm track behind it.  We modeled it after the Radiohead album, In Rainbows which is that poly-rhythmic base part and really makes it sound like a wave.

JD:  The album is called In Waves. Is there significance to that?

SB:  The title track is based around a really challenging year that I had.  I won’t go into too much detail, but I realized that someone I had been dating turned out to be a sociopath.  Everything I had been experiencing turned out to be a complete lie which is one of the reasons I decided to move up to Salem and rebuild my life from a place where I thought everything had crumbled.  That was part of it, just learning to ride the waves of emotion and know that everything happens for a reason.  If you can just move through it, everything will be alright.  I also spent a lot of time on the ocean during that year, which is where the oceanic theme came from.

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Sarah Blacker overlooking the ocean                                Photo courtesy of Kimberly Marchand

JD:  Listening to you, it sounds like things are looking up.

SB:  Absolutely!  It was really a blow to the heart and reality, so I’ve just been rebuilding.  I love living in Salem by the ocean.  I feel like I can be myself, learning to trust in the process, and maybe not rush things so much.  As a young musician, you want to push to make everything happen yesterday, but I find it important to really take care of yourself along the way.  I’m ready to experience this in as many ways as possible and I think evolving as an artist is just part of the journey.

Sarah Blacker and the New England Groove Association perform at Club Passim on Saturday, January 7.  Click here to learn more about Sarah and her music.  Click here for tickets as well as Club Passim’s full concert schedule.  Club Passim is located in Harvard Square and easily accessible by public transportation.