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I highly recommend the Carole King Beautiful musical show

Posted by John Reed on

Last night, my wife and I went to see Beautiful, the Carole King Musical. Fantastic!

We love these juke box musicals

We also love and highly recommend two other similar such musicals: The Million-Dollar Quartet (which we saw in Chicago twice and Vegas once) and Jersey Boys (which we saw in Manhattan with the original cast).

We saw Beautiful in San Francisco at the Orpheum Theater. The cast there was terrific, but that neighborhood really sucks. It is also playing in NYC, London, and Australia. And the group we saw is touring the U.S. The schedule is at

Carole King

Carole King, is a talented musician, singer, songwriter with a dazzling smile, but an otherwise plain Jane with a frumpy appearance and self-image. A soulful Jewish girl from Brooklyn.

Sordid dramatic plot

The musical is really about her and three other songwriters: her husband, Jerry Goffin, and Barry Mann, and his wife, Cynthia Weill. As with Jersey Boys and too many stories about popular music people, the basic plot is sordid: male musical people not being able to “be a fanatic” about their marriage to use Jim Bouton’s memorable phrase.

But you don’t go to Jersey Boys or Beautiful for the divorces. You go for the super live performances of 24 songs in the King case. In addition to also being ABOUT Goffin, Weill, and Mann, the musical includes many of their songs like He’s Sure the Boy I Love, On Broadway, Uptown.

Rock-and-roll oldies fun and middle-age melancholy

I am not a great Carole King fan of her singing or her post-marital-troubles song-writing. She is probably most famous for her Tapestry album which is sort of middle-aged, “ups and downs of life” stuff. Melancholy. But I am a great fan of her early song writing: teenage, fun stuff like Loco-motion, Chains, Cryin’ in the Rain, Don’t Say Nothin’ Bad About My Baby, Go Away Little Girl, I’m Into Something Good, Up on the Roof.

I recently quoted the lyrics of Up on the Roof in an article in my newsletter Real Estate Investor’s Monthly. We visited our middle son in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn last October and I was impressed with the roof deck amenity on his new apartment building. Then, a couple of months ago, the Wall Street Journal did an article about a roof deck in adding value to a house. So I wrote an article about my real estate investor readers possibly adding such decks as a cost-effective improvement (the resulting incremental net income will cover the cost of the deck in five years or less. I quoted the lyrics of Up on The Roof [written by Goffin] as the best description of the virtues of an urban roof deck.

The creative process

The musical, like Quartet and Jersey Boys, is also about the creative process. Like King et al., I am in a creative career. That is, people who make a living by taking a blank whatever and filling it with a unique new product. In my case, it’s books. In King’s case, tunes and lyrics. Others write computer codes, ads, sculpt, paint, etc.

If you are interested in the creative process, that is an additional bonus in the Beautiful musical. I write about it in my Succeeding, How to Write..., and Baseball books.

The creative process is finding what is in you and letting it out. You have to be yourself. That is easy, and hard. It’s easy because it’s zen: let it happen, don’t make it happen. But it’s hard for two reasons: trying to make it happen instead of letting it happen short-circuits the creative process and being yourself requires you to trust that others will like what you do. At one point in Beautiful, Goffin criticizes a black singer for holding back, and thereby performing less well, in front of white audiences, but not in front of black ones.

We creative types have to “Let ’er rip,” let it all hang out, floor it, throw caution to the wind. The black singer did that in front of the black audiences, but was afraid to in front of the white ones.

Zen and non-zen

Some stuff is zen. Other stuff is not. If you apply non-zen to zen activities—trying to MAKE it happen—you will fail. And vice versa. My favorite examples are falling in love (zen) and meeting people with whom you might fall in love (not zen). Trying to make yourself into what your love interest wants or trying to make her love you is futile and destructive of achieving the goal. You just have to be yourself and let it happen. And that includes also letting it not happen. You do not cling to zen success, you permit it.

But applying zen to meeting Ms. Right is also dead wrong. That, you MAKE happen. Waiting for Ms. Right to “come along” is a formula for life long bachelorhood or being one of the 50% who get divorced and another unknown percentage in loveless marriages. I am aware that most people found their spouse by waiting for him or her to “come along,” although I think that is now changing because of Internet matchmaking.

Zen in baseball

In baseball, full-swing hitting, throwing, pitching, and fielding hot grounders in the infield are zen. Trying harder to get better does not work and only delays success. Bunting, baserunning, catching fly balls are not zen. Trying harder works quite well. A major league baseball player and I met at a baseball batting cage once. We got to talking and he gave me an impromptu lesson. “Trust your hands,” he said over and over, like Obi Wan Kenobe teaching “Luke Skywalker to trust the force.”

You gradually get better at non-zen activities with practice. With zen activities, there is no gradual, no practice. Improvement comes in instant, huge leaps from flashes of zen insight. I went from being the worst hitter on my LL baseball team to the best in an instant when I decided to stop worrying about striking out and just get my at-bat over with. Boom! Single to right, the only hit in the game for our side. I hit safely in every game all season, the only one on the team to do so. Why? I didn’t care whether I did or not. The others were trying to make it happen. They didn’t trust the force.

I see that sort of thing between the lines watching the Carole King musical. I highly recommend it.

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