Now that the Eccles Theater is truly open for business it’s time to get down to the brass tacks of Broadway, my dears.
Let us take a moment to recall that this theater was once just a twinkle in the eyes of Salt Lake’s former mayor Ralph Becker and his Tony-award winning brother Bill. Bike-Riding Ralph and Tony-Award Winning Bill dreamed the theater would be a first-class way station for touring Broadway shows who have newly quit the Great White Way and are headed out across the great plains. To Utah, by god, to Utah!
First up? Beautiful: The Carole King Musical
Beautiful is the origin tale of Carole King, the chart-topping singer and songwriter who, along with her early songwriting partner and first-husband Gerry Goffin, wrote famous songs like “(You Make Me Feel) Like a Natural Woman,” “One fine Day” and, of course, the production’s title song “Beautiful.”
Carole’s rise to stardom was helped (and hindered) by her relationship with Goffin. They met each other while attending Queens College and their courtship and creative relationship is the basis for the musical, which earned two Tonys.
On the U.S. Tour, Goffin is portrayed by Canadian actor Liam Tobin who sat down with us to discuss life on tour and the challenge of playing the villain alongside one of the most beloved songwriters in the American canon.
First thing he wants you to know? Gerry isn’t (exactly) a villain.
“It’s an interesting role because it’s easy to fall into a villainous portrayal, but that isn’t accurate,” Tobin says. “In his heart, he’s a good guy and he wants to be a good father, a good husband and friend but he makes a lot of mistakes along the way and it eats him up inside, which sends him further down the rabbit hole (away from his intentions).”
Tobin never med Goffin who died in 2014 and reportedly loved the production which started in San Francisco in 2013. Beautiful made its Broadway debut in 2014. The tour, its first (fist bump to Bill Becker), departed in September of last year (2015).
In researching the role, Tobin naturally started with the music, which he hadn’t realized was such a backdrop to his own life. Carole King is one of those artists whose work is such a part of the popular music landscape that even if you think you don’t know her music, you do.
“Right way I learned that I already knew so much of her music,” Tobin says. “My mother was always playing her albums but I never thought to ask who she was.”
While the music takes center stage (this is after all a jukebox musical designed to please audiences with songs everyone knows) it’s a very personal story—essentially the tales of two young lovers thrust onto a very large stage.
“What Carole and Gerry had to go though to write what are essentially the songs of an era, wasn’t easy,” Tobin says. “The difficulties are what fueled the songs, though. Carole has to put up with a lot before she becomes the Carole King that we all know and love.”
“And you’ll see Gerry’s not the bad guy, he’s trying to do the right thing but just doesn’t quite get there and I think that’s something we’ve all been through and can relate to.”
Beautiful: The Carole King Musical run Nov. 15–20 at The Eccles Theater. To purchase tickets, ARTTIX.ORG, call 801-355-ARTS (2787) or visit the Eccles Theater box office.
Jeremy Pugh is a Salt Lake magazine contributor who writes about theater, history, culture and whatever else we ask him to. He’s also the author of 100 Things to Do in Salt Lake City Before You Die, which is a book about, well, duh.