Sarah Bockel as Carole King in “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical.” Photo by Nile Hawver /Nile Scott Studios

“When I hear those chords, it just does something to me,” said Sarah Bockel, star of “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical” at Ogunquit Playhouse.

She was speaking about the jukebox musical’s opening number, “So Far Away,” one of the many hits from King’s 1971 album “Tapestry,” which won four Grammys, including album of the year.

Those opening chords do something to everyone who sees the show. They’re simple piano notes, and yet they are packed with immense emotion before the vocals begin.

More than 50 years later, all 12 of “Tapestry’s” songs still feel fresh and relevant, including “I Feel the Earth Move,” “It’s Too Late,” “Home Again,” “Will You Love Me Tomorrow” and “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman.”

The original vinyl copy that I snagged from my parents’ record collection many years ago is something I’ll never part with.

Last fall, I saw “Beautiful” and was so enthralled that I knew I had to see it again, and this time, I wanted to talk to Bockel. So, about an hour before the curtain rose on a Friday night, we sat under a tent and got into it.


First, some show background.

The Tony Award-nominated show, set in New York City, starts when King is 16 years old in 1958 and traces her career through a 1971 show at Carnegie Hall.

Scene from “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical” at Ogunquit Playhouse, starring Sarah Bockel as Carole King. Photo by Nile Hawver/ Nile Scott Studios

The characters include King’s songwriting partner and then-husband Gerry Goffin, her mother, Genie, fellow songwriters Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann, and music publisher Don Kirschner. There’s also a large cast of singers and dancers who bring to life the many hits penned by Goffin, King, Weil and Mann for acts like The Shirelles and The Drifters.

A Chicago native and current New Yorker, Bockel has been playing the role of King for several years in the nationally touring production. She also led the cast on Broadway during the show’s last few months at the Sondheim Theatre in 2019.

Previously, Bockel has had roles in regional productions of “Into the Woods,” “Les Miserables,” “Parade” and “Cinderella” as well as a guest appearance on the TV show “The Equalizer.”

Bockel had more to say about “So Far Away” and how much she appreciated being able to speak directly to the audience. “It’s rare that a jukebox musical will start off with kind of a quiet moment.”


The actress struggled with that scene’s monologue for a long time because she wanted to be sure to reach out to everyone in the audience and get a sense of how they were feeling. Turns out, she didn’t need to. “It’s actually the opposite, it’s actually drawing everyone into me,” she said.

The sign in front of the Ogunquit Playhouse advertising “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical.” Photo by Aimsel Ponti

The fact that she’s portraying such a beloved artist certainly helps. “I’m set up to succeed. Everyone already loves her.”

Although she knew who King was, Bockel had no idea about the scale of her work. The one song she knew was “It’s Too Late,” and it’s still her favorite to sing in “Beautiful.”

Ironically, Bockel has been told many times she resembles King, which didn’t used to resonate with because there were no opportunities to portray the singer. But Bockel loves jukebox musicals and jumped at the chance to audition for the role.

She now has a deep appreciation for King’s music, so much so that the show takes a bigger toll on her. “As I’m digging deeper, I’m more tired now because I want it to be fresh and new.” But there’s another reason.

Although Bockel is happy to be getting married next month, thinking about it has stirred things because “Beautiful” delves into heartache and the end of a marriage. “Thinking about divorce has a new meaning to me now, and falling out of love with somebody is hitting me in a new way, and I feel like I’m able to reach new places.”


She also found a silver lining.

Bockel said she’s grown with the show and has come to understand what the song “Natural Woman” is about. “It now means something very deep to me about accepting yourself and feeling like you’re enough.”

In 2019, at the end of a matinee performance in Costa Mesa, California, Bockel got the surprise of a lifetime.

As the star of the show, she’s the last person to take a bow, and during those 30 or so seconds of waiting side-stage, Bockel was told that King was there and was going to duet with her on “I Feel the Earth Move.”

Bockel burst into tears and, with them fully flowing, had to take her bow. Her castmates wondered if she was injured or if something else was wrong.

All was revealed when King walked out onto the stage and hugged Bockel. King was followed by her daughter, the musician Louise Goffin, and they all sang the song together. It was an experience Bockel will never forget.


And I will never forget seeing “Beautiful,” largely because of Bockel’s performance. For those two acts, she was Carole King.

The entire cast was fabulous, including Anthony Cataldo, who filled in for Matthew Amira in the role of Gerry Goffin during a scheduled day off.

Bockel said she doesn’t have anything lined up after “Beautiful” ends, but I can’t imagine she won’t land a role soon enough.

See her in “Beautiful” in Ogunquit. It’s really not so far away.

‘Beautiful: The Carole King Musical’
Various showtimes through June 10. Ogunquit Playhouse, 10 Main St., $40 to $126.

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