“Will you still love me tomorrow?” Jessie Mueller sings as Carole King in the new musical Beautiful that opened Sunday night in New York.
The actress is sure to be loved tomorrow and tomorrow and all the way to the Tony Awards. Hers is a performance that captures all the contradictions of King – a shy star with a small ego and big voice that somehow bridged Brooklyn with country and western – without ever seeming like impersonation.
Douglas McGrath’s new musical tracks King – born Klein – from her start as a precocious 16-year-old songwriter peddling her first tune to the Brill Building, through her productive if stormy partnership, professional and personal, with lyricist Gerry Goffin (played by a Degrassi alumnus, Toronto’s Jake Epstein), to her going solo in life and in music with her divorce from Goffin and the release of such seminal singer-songwriter albums as Tapestry in 1971.
Mueller is a marvel throughout, hiding behind a succession of upright and grand pianos, but always stealing scenes with self-deprecation. .