Friday, November 17, 2017
Stage

Songwriters Barry Mann, Cynthia Weil talk working with Carole King, 'Beautiful' musical

RECOMMENDED READING


TAMPA — Carole King went to New York in 1959 at age 16, hoping to become a songwriter. She became one of the most beloved recording artists of our time.

A stage version of her journey, Beautiful — The Carole King Musical, starts Tuesday at the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts. Two of the characters in the show, songwriters Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, are even more well known, at least through their work.

Ever heard the Righteous Brothers tune You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling? How about Walking in the Rain? Or for that matter, would you recognize On Broadway, Just Once, Don't Know Much or We've Gotta Get Out of This Place? Mann and Weil wrote them all, part of a legendary career that includes penning an incredible 50 hit songs. I reached the husband-and-wife team by phone in Beverly Hills, where they live and work.

Some elements of the musical, adapted from a book by Douglas McGrath, have been massaged slightly for clean storytelling. Take the scene that has Weil and Mann first laying eyes on each other in a rehearsal room with King.

"I was actually stalking Barry," said Weil, 75. But it's close enough. The most important part — a crazy competitive chemistry between Mann and Weil as one team, and King and Gerry Goffin as the other — is dead on, the couple said.

"It was kind of schizophrenic," said Mann, 77. "We loved them, but there was also jealousy."

That burning drive to not only equal but outdo their friends' latest song launched four brilliant careers. (Goffin, who married and divorced King, died in 2014.)

The most crucial part of the story, which shows King's growth blossoming during a personal crisis, is also on the money. Before the breakup, Goffin had written all of the lyrics. King felt adrift at first without him, then wrote some of the biggest hits of 1970s and beyond. We're talking the likes of Natural Woman, So Far Away, I Feel the Earth Move and many more. Her breakout 1971 album, Tapestry, is one of the all-time best sellers, with 25 million copies.

"I was shocked when the album came out," Mann said, "because I didn't know what a good lyricist she was."

Tapestry also showcased King as a singer whose unvarnished delivery made her records feel authentic. Listeners in the 1970s didn't know King when it came out but felt as if she knew them.

"A whole generation identified with all of the songs on that album," Weil said.

King approved the musical but struggled with having painful parts of her life on display, Mann and Weil said. She attended a read-through of the Broadway musical but left at intermission. In April 2014, she attended Beautiful for the first time.

"She came in disguise, so no one could see her watching it," Weil said. King surprised the cast by walking on stage at the curtain call, then led the cast in, You've Got a Friend.

Contact Andrew Meacham at [email protected] or (727) 892-2248. Follow @torch437.

Comments
What’s on stage this week: Benji Brown, ‘No Man’s Land’ on screen, Florida Orchestra does Bruch

What’s on stage this week: Benji Brown, ‘No Man’s Land’ on screen, Florida Orchestra does Bruch

KIKI OR BUST: BENJI BROWNWherever Benji Brown goes, Kiki follows. The comic, known for his work on the Rickey Smiley Morning Show, created the fast-talking female character on the fly when he called a girl’s house in high school and her boyfriend pic...
Published: 11/15/17
American Stage’s ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ is just what the love doctor ordered

American Stage’s ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ is just what the love doctor ordered

ST. PETERSBURG — A centuries-old template for the rom-com as we know it and one of Shakespeare’s most produced comedies, Much Ado About Nothing comes to us at a time when we can really use some love conquering all. Just what the love doctor ordered, ...
Published: 11/13/17
Updated: 11/15/17
Review: With a fine script, Stage West cast puts on a great show in ‘Baggage’

Review: With a fine script, Stage West cast puts on a great show in ‘Baggage’

Okay, I’ll admit I went into the Forum at Stage West Community Playhouse in Spring Hill on opening night of the comedy Baggage expecting another June/moon/spoon romance-comedy. And sure enough, that’s just the way it started.A man and a woman grab ea...
Published: 11/10/17
Updated: 11/16/17
From stickup to stand-up, bank robber's second act is comedy

From stickup to stand-up, bank robber's second act is comedy

TAMPA — He had dreamed about returning to comedy in odd moments, between meetings with the lawyer, the lonely trip to the correctional institute, picking up trash on state roads while a guard stood by with a rifle. This nightmare would make him...
Published: 11/10/17
Updated: 11/12/17
Sammy Hagar talks Clearwater concert, tequila and Van Halen drama

Sammy Hagar talks Clearwater concert, tequila and Van Halen drama

The Red Rocker calls on time, and he is all kinds of fired up."Hey, Jay, Sammy Hagar here. Are you ready for me?"Is anyone ever truly ready for a phone call from Hagar, the flame-haired, motor-mouthed ex-Van Halen singer who once dubbed himself the C...
Published: 11/09/17
Updated: 11/12/17
What’s on stage this week: ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ in Key West, Travis Wall Shaping Sound

What’s on stage this week: ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ in Key West, Travis Wall Shaping Sound

AMERICAN STAGE: MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHINGTwo couples nearly come apart at the seams for different reasons, the premise for Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, opening at American Stage. This version is set in Key West in the 1940s, the end of World Wa...
Published: 11/08/17
Updated: 11/15/17
Review: ‘The Year of Magical Thinking’ at Stageworks

Review: ‘The Year of Magical Thinking’ at Stageworks

At the beginning of The Year of Magical Thinking, Joan Didion acknowledges that the audience might not want to hear her story because we don’t think it could happen to us."It will happen to you," Didion says with a rueful smile, and of course she’s r...
Published: 11/06/17
Updated: 11/07/17
What's on stage this week: 'The Year of Magical Thinking,' Florida Orchestra milestone concert, John Cleese

What's on stage this week: 'The Year of Magical Thinking,' Florida Orchestra milestone concert, John Cleese

STAGEWORKS: MINING GRIEF FOR HEALING The Year of Magical Thinking, Joan Didion’s no-frills memoir of loss and recovery, opens at Stageworks Theatre this weekend. The essayist and screenwriter adapted the one-woman stage play herself. Didion w...
Published: 11/01/17
Updated: 11/08/17
Romantic comedy ‘Baggage’ opens Nov. 9 at Stage West

Romantic comedy ‘Baggage’ opens Nov. 9 at Stage West

The romantic comedy Baggage opens at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 9 at Stage West Community Playhouse, 8390 Forest Oaks Blvd., Spring Hill. Shows will continue at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays through Nov. 19. Phyllis Novack and Bradley Naught...
Updated one month ago
Richey Suncoast cancels Black Box shows, adds 13 specials

Richey Suncoast cancels Black Box shows, adds 13 specials

NEW PORT RICHEY — The highly anticipated second season of Richey Suncoast Theatre’s Black Box Cabaret has been canceled. The series of shows was set to start Nov. 10 and conclude June 17 in the space formerly occupied by Jimmy Ferraro’s Studio Theate...
Published: 10/30/17
Updated: 11/02/17