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Broadway Q&A: Vanessa Carlton of ‘Beautiful: The Carole King Musical’

Category Broadway

|by Jeryl Brunner |

The three-time Grammy nominee plays Carole King through Sept. 1st

Last month, Vanessa Carlton made her Broadway debut playing Carole King in Beautiful: The Carole King Musical. Have recently celebrate 5 years on Broadway, Beautiful tells the inspiring story of King’s journey from teen songwriter to rock and roll legend.The Tony and Grammy-winning show, which has been touring around the world, has been seen by more than 2 million people. A three-time Grammy nominee, Carlton is a singer-songwriter and pianist who first exploded onto the Billboard charts with her debut single, “A Thousand Miles.” She has toured as a headliner, and also supported her close friend and musical icon, Stevie Nicks. 

Vanessa Carlton recently stepped into the role of Carole King in ‘Beautiful’ on Broadway (Photo: Jenny Anderson for ‘Beautiful’ on Broadway)

Vanessa Carlton recently stepped into the role of Carole King in ‘Beautiful’ on Broadway (Photo: Jenny Anderson for ‘Beautiful’ on Broadway)

If someone were to ask, “Why should I see Beautiful?” What would you say?
Vanessa Carlton: It’s a story of a person facing their fears and taking a risk and ending up with something beautiful. We all feel those fears. And to see the story played out on stage – and all of the ups and downs in the life of a woman like Carole King – everyone can relate to it.

What went though your mind when you were asked to play Carole King in Beautiful?
VC: When it came through, I responded “Oh s*#t” in a text to my manager. I instantly knew this would probably be more work than I have ever done in my life. It would be the biggest challenge and career risk. I hadn’t seen the show yet, but I knew it would probably be fantastic. Then when I saw Beautiful, I thought, “This is one of the best shows on Broadway.”

How did you lean into your fear?
VC: That’s a great way to put it. It was about leaning into my fear. I am inspired by my 4-year-old daughter. Every single day, that kid has to try something new and go out of her comfort zone. She gets so frustrated, but she just keeps going. But as adults, we just fall into our slots and that’s that. My husband also said, “I think you should go for it. We’ll keep our family together. I’ll bring Sidney to you.” We live in Nashville. So, every two weeks they come and see me.

When did you discover Carole King’s music?
VC: I first heard her when I was around six. My parents had a great record collection. I remember listening to the album Tapestry when I was young. My mom had already taught me how to play the piano beginning at three. I was really young. So I thought, “Oh, you can do that on the piano. And also it can be part of a song.” Carole is very classically influenced. After reading a lot about her history and her biography, I’m surprised by a lot of the similarities between us.

How has motherhood transformed you?
VC: It makes me want to cry. Motherhood is not for everybody. It cracked me open in a way that I needed to be opened up. I’m just so in awe of her, and now, of human beings in general. Especially as I see her go through challenges and growth spurts, and what she has to deal with emotionally. It’s funny, I see adults and think, “We’re all a bunch of babies. We are all a bunch of four-year-olds trying to figure things out.” Aren’t we?

How do you prepare before going on stage?
: I do lots of vocal warmups. I started working with a vocal coach. I haven't worked with one in years.

How do you feel when you play the piano?
VC: Playing the piano is like second nature to me. I feel so lucky that I have that outlet to just sit and go into a dreamland. 

For more of the best of Broadway this summer, check out our list of the Top Shows in New York in July 2019.


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