Preview: Actress keeps returning to uplifting rendition of Carole King musical

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All Kaylee Harwood has ever wanted to do is make beautiful music.

“I’ve been singing since I could talk, and dancing since I could walk. I was a performer before I knew I wanted to be a performer,” says Harwood who is headlining Stage West’s production of Beautiful: The Carole King Musical which begins previews April 19, with its official opening on April 26.

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This is a role Harwood first sang in 2017 when she joined the national tour of Beautiful that took her to 40 U.S. cities, and six Canadian cities, including Calgary at the Jubilee in the fall of 2018. She did a second national tour and, most recently, headlined the Arts Club production of Beautiful in Vancouver last year.

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“I will keep doing this musical as long as people ask me to, because I am in love with Carole’s spirit, and I love the experience of how audiences react to the show. They are so uplifted by her music and her story. Even in a theatre as large as the Jubilee, I could hear the gasps of recognition and love when people heard certain songs.”

Beautiful follows the career of King from the time she was 17 and wrote Will You Love Me Tomorrow, which gave the Shirelles their massive hit, making them the first African American girl group to reach No. 1 in North America. The musical ends with Carole recording her Tapestry album that would become, and remains, her greatest personal success. It is here that Harwood gets to sing You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman, one of King’s signature songs.

Beautiful starring Kaylee Harwood is coming to Stage West from a recent production in Vancouver. Photos, Moonrider Productions for the Arts Club cal

The musical also features songs King wrote for other artists such as The Drifters’ Up On The Roof and On Broadway, Little Eva’s The Locomotion, The Righteous Brothers’ You’ve Lost that Lovin’ Feeling, the Ronettes’ Walking in the Rain, and The Animals’ We Gotta Get Out of This Place. It also features songs like You’ve Got a Friend, It’s Too Late, I Feel the Earth Move and Beautiful, which she topped the charts with.

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“What makes Carole such an incredible composer is she is able to distill a feeling or an emotion,” says Harwood. “Her ideas are complex musically and lyrically, but their real power is in their connection on a visceral level. These are universal feelings and emotions, which is why people react to her songs.”

The musical looks at King’s tumultuous relationship with her first husband Gerry Goffin. It also looks at her rivalry with the writing team of Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann.

“With the song, It’s Too Late, we see Carole beginning a new chapter in her life. She has her independence. It’s a moment in the musical, I always love to reach. As a performer, Carole always puts everything she can into the moment. She’s five-foot nothing, but when she sings she’s a giant,” says Harwood, who got to meet King after one of her shows in Los Angeles.

“She sang on stage with us, and she met with us later. She talked about what she calls band love. She told us she always acknowledges her musicians because there is no magic without them. She told me to do the same on stage, not just with the real band, but with the actors who play my musicians. Carole is not a diva, so there is no room for someone portraying her to be one.”

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Like King, Harwood’s career began as a teenager.

“I was 18 and got the lead in a (Vancouver) community theatre production of Cinderella. I had grown up going to ballet, opera and musical theatre performances, but had never performed myself. Being in Cinderella changed all that. I knew instantly this is what I wanted to do, and was happily amazed to learn people could actually make a living performing.”

From that little production of Cinderella, Harwood has found herself performing at Stratford, and on Broadway, and finally finding Beautiful, the musical she never tires of sharing with audiences.

There is special pricing for Stage West’s preview performances of Beautiful, which runs from April 19 to 25.

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