Advertisement
  1. Stage

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

Husband-and-wife song-writing duo Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil have had a legendary career that includes penning an incredible 50 hit songs.
Getty Images (2014)
Published Apr. 22, 2016

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 ameacham@tampabay.com or (727) 892-2248. Follow @torch437.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. Julie Andrews, right, and her daughter, Emma Walton Hamilton, take fans' questions in a Q&A at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater on Nov. 13. JAY CRIDLIN  |  Tampa Bay Times
    The stage and screen icon came to Clearwater to discuss her new memoir ‘Home Work’ and a wide range of other topics.
  2. Kevin James appears in his 2018 Netflix special "Don't Never Give Up." Courtesy of KC Bailey
    Plus, ‘Once on This Island,’ the Tampa Bay Symphony and the Florida Orchestra.
  3. John Leguizamo will bring his one-man show "Latin History for Morons" to the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts in Tampa on Nov. 17. Courtesy of Matthew Murphy
    Plus, how his ‘House of Buggin’ became ‘Mad TV’ and a dream project about a Hispanic Oscar Schindler. Leguizamo’s one-man show comes to the Straz Center on Nov. 17.
  4. "Fiddler on the Roof" is at the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts in Tampa. Courtesy of Joan Marcus
    The revival of a pointed story about tradition stays close to the source. | Review
  5. Comic John Crist has canceled his upcoming tour, including a May 10, 2020 concert at Tampa's Yuengling Center, following a report by the Christian publication Charisma News alleging multiple instances of sexual misconduct. Courtesy of John Crist
    The viral star’s Netflix special and tour are on hold after a report alleging sexual misconduct.
  6. Julie Andrews will appear in conversation at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater on Nov. 13. Courtesy of Andrew Eccles
    The 84-year-old Hollywood icon will discuss her new autobiography this week at Ruth Eckerd Hall.
  7. Julie Andrews arrives at the Los Angeles Philharmonic 2015-16 season opening gala at Walt Disney Concert Hall. RICHARD SHOTWELL  |  Invision/AP
    Plus, comics Jay Mohr and Cristela Alonso, the Florida Orchestra’s ‘Deep Field’ with Eric Whitacre and more.
  8. Ruth Eckerd Hall, Clearwater is undergoing a $12 million renovation/ expansion. Progress is seen here Wednesday, October 30, 2019. SCOTT KEELER  |  Times
    The 6,000-square-foot entryway opens this weekend, showcasing the venue’s most extensive facelift to date.
  9. Jobsite Theater's "The Thanksgiving Play" features Caitlin Eason, Giles Davies, Dana Mauro and Adam Workman. It runs through Nov. 17 at the David A. Straz Jr. Center for Performing Arts in Tampa. Courtesy of Jobsite Theater
    Larissa FastHorse’s witty satire at Jobsite Theater mocks political correctness as well as theater itself. | Review
  10. "Fiddler on the Roof" will come to the Straz Center in Tampa on Tuesday as part of its 2019-20 Broadway series. Courtesy of Joan Marcus
    Plus, Mo’Nique, Bianca Del Rio and more.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement