Liam Tobin, who plays Gerry Goffin in Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, remembers his mom playing Tapestry at home. As a kid, he wasn’t really aware of who Carole King was, but he knew the music like a familiar feeling.
Most of us can distinguish her voice, strong and pure over a piano that's by turn thunderous and
Beautiful, directed by Marc Bruni and story by Douglas McGrath, takes the audience on a journey through her life and music, starting in 1958 when she pitched her first song, all the way to
Tobin says he has always enjoyed performing onstage, ever since he started out in his high school’s community theater club in St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada. It was the people, the fun, and the creative process that fueled his decision to pursue musical theater as a career. After studying at Sheridan College in Oakville, Ontario, he took his first role as an ensemble member and understudy for Rolf in The Sound of Music in Toronto. Tobin has also performed in West Side Story, touring in Western Europe, and Shrek The Musical.
Gerry Goffin – King’s first husband and co-writer – has been Tobin's most challenging role yet.
“This show is really great because it’s a chance to play a different kind of role,” Tobin says. “It’s a much more challenging acting role, and it’s kind of fun to not have to be the star-crossed lover that’s not necessarily the well-liked character by the audience.”
In the first act, Goffin and King write hit songs together for other artists, such as “The Loco-Motion” by Little Eva and “Up on the Roof” by the Drifters. But through their work and marriage, they struggle with issues involving infidelity and mental illness. Tobin says the audience can relate to a lot of those struggles.
“Gerry is a tragic character in a way,” he said. “I feel he really wants to do the right thing and be a good husband, father, and friend. But he makes a lot of mistakes and
McGrath, who wrote the book the show is based on, spent a lot of time interviewing the four principal characters in the show – Goffin, King, Cynthia Weil, and Barry Mann. Though Goffin passed away in 2014, Tobin has used the book, videos, and other research online to prepare for his role. The scenes in which Goffin and King compose music are based on old video footage of them working together.
“Gerry had his own language that only Carole could understand,” Tobin said. “It’s fun because you get to see them working together, creating and feeding off of one another… and then you get to see the polished, finished product.”
Beyond the professional and romantic relationship between Goffin and King is their strong friendship with Weil and Mann. Though they compete for hit songs at 1650 Broadway in Manhattan, strong bonds emerge. Weil and Mann get to show us some of their biggest hits as well, including “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling” and “On Broadway.”
“This is a story of hanging in there and believing in yourself, but also one of friendship,” Tobin said. “You see the four of them going through this period together, and it really is a story of friendship as well and how music makes life a lot better. There’s a nice moment when they sing “You’ve Got a Friend,” too. It’s a really uplifting, feel-good tale.”
Tobin’s favorite scene in the show is the song” “Pleasant Valley Sunday,” which Goffin and King wrote for the Monkees. It's one of the few times in the show he gets to sing with the entire cast, and he says it’s a lot of fun to do.
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Goffin and King’s relationship unravels in the second act, just as King’s solo career begins. Tobin says the central message of the show shines through the line, “Sometimes life goes the way you want, and sometimes it doesn’t. But sometimes when it doesn’t, you find something beautiful.”
Tobin affirms that even though a lot of things don’t go her way, King still manages to create some amazing music and really achieve success.
He says, “You’ll laugh, cry, cheer; you’ll be up and dancing and singing in the aisles. People have a great time. The audience’s response has been incredible.”
Beautiful: The Carole King Musical
May 10 to 22, at Broward Center for the Performing Arts, 201 SW Fifth Ave., Fort Lauderdale. Tickets cost $35 to $150 plus fees. For the full schedule, visit browardcenter.org.