Who better to play the legendary singer-songwriter Carole King than another brilliant singer-songwriter?
Three-time Grammy Award® nominee Vanessa Carlton just stepped into Carole King’s enormous shoes in Broadway’s Beautiful: The Carole King Musical. We sat down with Carlton to talk about making her Broadway debut and Carole King’s legacy.
Broadway Inbound: Carole King is such an important part of American music history. How does it feel to be playing someone who paved the way for so many women in the music industry?
Vanessa Carlton: I love playing these songs. The melodies are stunning, the lyrics are so emotional yet so clean and simple. It's like a lesson in songwriting every night. It isn't lost on me that I am able to be where I am as a pianist because of women like Carole King.
BI: When did you first become aware of Carole King’s music?
VC: I was 7 or 8. My parents had a great record collection. We would play Tapestry. I loved the cover photo. It's all about that cat!
BI: As a singer-songwriter yourself, how do you relate to King’s story? How do you see yourself in her?
VC: There are so many scenes in this show that I have experienced in my own life. It's emotional for me to be doing this show 8 times a week. I am so raw. And in a good way. I can access any part of myself right now. I had to actively work to get to this vulnerable place. It’s the only way to create the arc in the show. I have had partners who've lied, or cheated, I’ve had to try and win over publishers, or record execs with a song. I’ve had a screaming baby in my arms while trying to finish a record. But ultimately, this story is a story everyone can relate to. It’s a gorgeous tale of winning and losing and compassion and risk taking.
BI: How do you take care of your voice so that you’re always ready to hit the stage?
VC: I’ve never had to be so attentive to vocal health. I warm up and cool down every day. I have a vocal coach. I am on vocal rest at times. I get physical therapy on my jaw and neck twice a week. Acupuncture. The whole nine yards. I haven't missed a show due to losing my voice yet. Knocking on wood.
BI: What’s it like to be making your Broadway debut?
VC: It's absolutely exhilarating. It's healing. It's opening me up in ways I didn't realize were closed off!
BI: How did you prepare for the role?
VC: I studied with a brilliant acting coach Bridget Berger, in Nashville before coming to NYC. I was able to improvise the script before learning the actual words. The story is so deep inside my body. I am so grateful to her. As I’ve never acted before! It’s such a beautiful craft. I had no idea!
BI: With so many shows on Broadway, why is Beautiful the one to see?
VC: It is absolutely one of the best shows I’ve ever seen. The script alone made me cry when I read it. You have a brilliant script with some of the best songs ever written woven throughout. With such a talented cast and crew. You will laugh and cry. People do every night. What more could you ask for?
A huge thank you to Vanessa Carlton for finding the time to talk to us in the middle of her run—we can’t wait to see her in the show! To book your tickets to see Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, click on the show page link below, and hurry—Carlton is in the show through September 1st!