ArtsBeat

Playing Carole King: Julia Knitel takes on the role of the music legend in ‘Beautiful’

Julia Knitel, center, plays Carole King in the national tour of “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical” that will play six shows at the Morrison Center. The story begins with King’s songwriting career, and also features (left to right) producer Don Kirshner (Curt Bouril), and collaborators Gerry Goffin (Liam Tobin), Barry Mann (Ben Fankhauser) and Cynthia Weil (Erika Olsen).
Julia Knitel, center, plays Carole King in the national tour of “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical” that will play six shows at the Morrison Center. The story begins with King’s songwriting career, and also features (left to right) producer Don Kirshner (Curt Bouril), and collaborators Gerry Goffin (Liam Tobin), Barry Mann (Ben Fankhauser) and Cynthia Weil (Erika Olsen). ©2016 Joan Marcus

Carole King broke boundaries in the music industry as a songwriter in the 1960s, and she went on to become one of the most iconic voices of ’70s. King and her songwriting partner and husband, Gerry Goffin, churned out a litany of classic pop tunes, but their breakup and her heartache led her to write her own deeper, empowering songs.

King’s personal journey is now on the Broadway stage in the hit-filled, jukebox musical “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical.” The national tour opens the Morrison Center’s 2016-17 Broadway in Boise season with a six-show run from Tuesday, Nov. 29, through Saturday, Dec. 3.

The musical follows King’s life and career that — through her music — echoed the social changes and conflicts working women then — and now — face in a male dominated world.

“She was at the forefront of a revolution without even knowing she was. It’s singular, an achievement,” says Julia Knitel, who plays King from a young and plucky Brooklyn teenager to age 29, when she gave her breakthrough “Tapestry” Carnegie Hall performance. “It’s the kind of role that comes along once in a lifetime, and I feel so honored to get to take a shot at it.”

This is Knitel’s first lead role in a major production. She grew up in a family of performers in Fair Lawn, N.J., where her parents own a community theater.

“My parents have incredible taste in music fortunately,” Knitel says. “We grew up listening to James Taylor, Carly Simon, Joni Mitchell, the Beatles. I wasn’t as familiar with Carole, but when I started rehearsals, I realized, ‘Oh, my gosh, every song I loved was written by this woman.’ That’s what’s so special about the show. You can come in as a fan of ‘Tapestry’ but be prepared to have your mind blown by all the other songs she wrote.”

“Beautiful” features a host of pop hits written by King and Goffin — “Locomotion,” “Take Good Care of My Baby,” “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow” (currently Knitel’s favorite to sing), “You’ve Got a Friend,” “So Far Away” and the title song “Beautiful.”

The show’s song list further swells with hits from King and Goffin collaborators Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, whose own roster includes the standards “On Broadway” and “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling.”

Knitel, 23, landed her first Broadway show at 16 in the chorus of 2009’s revival of “Bye Bye Birdie.” In 2015, she stepped into the “Beautiful” Broadway company as King’s best friend Betty and as the understudy for role of King, which was originally created by Jessie Mueller, who won the 2014 Tony. Mueller’s sister Abby opened the national tour in the role, and Knitel took over three months ago.

“I’m having the best time getting to know Carole,” Knitel says. “When you understudy a role, you don’t really get the time or the resources to dive in the same way that you do when it’s your own part. I’ve been enjoying the research, reading her book and other books about her to absorb as much as I can to make my Carole more full every day.”

Knitel met King in New York at the 1,000th performance of “Beautiful.”

“She was there celebrating with us,” she says. “At the time I didn’t know I’d be doing the role. We hugged in the hall. She was so nice.”

Knitel has been enjoying the travel of a national road show and is looking forward to bringing the show to Idaho, which King herself calls home part of the year. King owns a ranch near Stanley and a place in Ketchum.

“Beautiful: The Carole King Musical”

7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 29, to Thursday, Dec. 1; 8 p.m. Friday, Dec. 2; 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 3, Morrison Center, 2201 Cesar Chavez Lane, Boise. $40-$75 Tuesday-Thursday; $50-$80 Friday-Saturday. Ticketmaster.

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