Maybe Woody was checking out the fabulous Jessie Mueller, who portrays King in the bio-musical, for his next movie. No one presents women with meatier roles than Woody. (Cate Blanchett is getting closer and closer to that Oscar I predicted four months ago.)
Mueller portrays Carole King from age 16, when she pitched hits to Manhattan record producer Don Kirshner (Jeb Brown), to the years she collaborated with longtime writing partner and husband Gerry Goffin (Jake Epstein). Their hits included “Will You Love Me Tomorrow” for the Shirelles, “Some Kind of Wonderful” for the Drifters, and “The Locomotion” for their kid’s babysitter Little Eva.
By the time she was 30, King’s marriage was kaput but she emerged as an even stronger writer and became a solo performer, whose 1971 album “Tapestry” was her biggest hit. According to the musical’s playbill, “more than 400 of her compositions have been recorded by over 1,000 artists, resulting in 100 hit singles and six Grammys.” (King will be honored at the Grammys this year with a lifetime achievement award.)
But back to the Broadway opening on Sunday, where Woody skipped his own tribute at the Globes to catch “Beautiful” at the Stephen Sondheim Theater.
Other A-listers he shared the evening with included Fantasia Barrino, Jerry Seinfeld, Katie Couric and Nathan Lane. Couric was so excited about the Woody sighting that she tweeted: “Where was Woody Allen tonight? He was at Beautiful across the aisle from me!” (The world knows by now that Ronan and Mia Farrow sent tweets about Allen that were a lot less enthusiastic.)
Read my full report on the evening over at Showbiz411.com.
On the red carpet, I spoke with the boyish-looking director Marc Bruni, who conceded he was too young to remember when King’s first hits came out. “It is not the music of my generation, but in the course of this process, I’ve come to a great appreciation and love of it.”
Bruni first came across the script three years ago. “I was knocked out by the music and Doug McGrath’s extraordinary book, and I’ve had the time of my life working on it.”
Has he met Carole King?
“Our first day in New York she came to rehearsal and spent two hours meeting with the whole cast,” he told me. “Her spirit, I think, has infused the production in that way. She has such honesty about her and she was so open and willing to discuss every aspect of her life with everyone in the room that day. It was really quite wonderful.”
I asked the director if he’d spoken to her recently and why she wasn’t at the opening of the musical, which is executive produced by her daughter Sherry Goffin Kondor.
“I have not,” he told me. “She said several times that it’s very personal to her and that she doesn’t want … She lived it once. She doesn’t want to see it again. That seems to be where she is with it.”
If anyone comes off badly in the musical, it’s King’s ex-husband and writing partner, Gerry Goffin, who was at the opening, and seems to have a laid-back attitude about the way he’s portrayed.
“I think his response was that it wasn’t quite how it happened, but it seems to work in the course of doing the show. And I think, despite the fact he is the obstacle for her in the show, I think there’s a great sense of warmth to Gerry that Carole continues to have to this day and that she wanted us to have in the show. So despite the fact that he cheats on her twice and there is the infidelity, like she says at the end of the show, they made two beautiful girls and their songs, and that’s something to celebrate.”
Bruni was very much aware of Allen’s presence at the opening. Last year Bruni directed “Old Jews Telling Jokes” Off Broadway and Woody came to see that as well. “It was a great honor to have him in the audience,” Bruni said. “I think his humor is very much reflected in a lot of the style of the show, certainly the Barry Mann character, who is a neurotic.”
“I hope he liked it,” Bruni said of Woody.
As for choosing his musical over the Globes and a lifetime tribute, Bruni was awed. “I didn’t realize it. He chose our show? I feel so honored!”
Click the photos below for larger views. All photos by Paula Schwartz.