Beautiful:The Carole King Musical, from the Mirvish Productions, has been a huge success for a variety of reasons. It’s a musical tracing the career of Carole King, and endorsed by the iconic singer of the 70s herself. King is a musician whom most boomers love and the musical, featuring a lot of her songs from the Tapestry album, understandably pulls the heart strings and, therefore, the purse strings of the boomer theatre-goers.
The musical is currently touring Toronto after garnering seven Tony-Award nominations and winning two of them (Best Featured Actor in a Musical and Best Sound Design) in 2014, and following a year-long tour in the U.S. After Toronto, two simultaneous tours will take place in the U.K. and Australia. The musical also won three Drama Desk Awards in 2014 and a Grammy Award in 2015. Adapted from the book on the early life and career of Carole King by Douglas McGrath, Beautiful is a substantial work of art featuring not only great music, but a witty and funny dialogue, and outstanding orchestrations. It’s a musical that makes boomers laugh, reminisce and sing along. For boomers like me, who didn’t know much about the singer in the 70s except to appreciate her songs, the musical told a story of how a young musician went through her early life of love, success, heartbreaks, motherhood and friendships.
For the Toronto audience, it’s particularly heartwarming to see the homecoming of Chilina Kennedy, the lead Canadian actress from Oromocto, New Brunswick, who plays King. Kennedy, who replaced the Tony-Award winner Jesse Mueller in Broadway’s Beautiful in March 2015, had to take a leave of absence from New York City to perform in Toronto. The young actress has a rich theatrical pedigree on both sides of the border having spent three seasons at both The Stratford Festival and Shaw Festival in Ontario. She also starred in a touring production of Mamma Mia and played Mary Magdalene in Jesus Christ Superstar on Broadway. Playing opposite Kennedy is another Canadian, Liam Tobin, who hailed from St. John’s Newfoundland. Tobin plays King’s first handsome and talented husband and songwriting partner Gerry Goffin, probably the second most important character in the musical.
Entertainment production companies have recently been paying a lot of attention to boomer audiences. The Desert Trip Music Festival last year, which featured The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney, Neil Young and The Who (average age 72), was a resounding success. Goldenvoice, a division of AEG Worldwide, produced this event as well as the renowned Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival each spring in Indio, California. Unlike Coachella, which targeted mainly millennials and GenXers, the Desert Trip Festival was geared to the moneyed-boomer crowd with attractions such as US$10,000 tents, vintage shops, galley space, a pinball-machine arcade and an organic farmers market. It would be interesting to see whether they have enough boomer musicians to do an annual roster for The Desert Trip!
As posted before on this blog, Casino Rama and Fallsview Casino in Ontario have also been featuring big-name boomer musicians to lure the mature crowd. Upcoming shows include performers like Kiss, Donny and Marie Osmond, Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons, Paul Anka, Engelbert Humperdinck and Buddy Guy. Similarly, going through the list of scheduled events at Fallsview Casino is like a stroll on memory lane, featuring bands such as Air Supply, America, Creedence Clearwater Revisited (instead of Revival), and KC and the Sunshine Band.
In the world of entertainment, producers have definitely been targeting at and marketing to the boomers. Even Steve Coogan, the British screenwriter and filmmaker who is famous for his “Trip” travelogues, has just turned 50 and joined the league of boomers. His latest film, The Trip to Spain, is full of self-deprecating humour about insecurities and aging. We boomers obviously look forward to seeing more quality and inspiring entertainment coming our way. Unfortunately, Beautiful‘s extended run in Toronto will end on September 3. In the meantime, we are anticipating another musical, the revival of The King and I – undoubtedly another popular hit with boomer audiences – which will be in a Mirvish theatre next summer.