The first time Devan Mathias saw “Beautiful — The Carole King Musical,” it had an immediate impact on her..
“When the character I’m playing now, Cynthia Weil, entered the stage for the first time, I knew pretty instantly that I had to play this part,” the Fishers resident said. “This woman walks into the office of music producer Don Kirshner and asks for a job as a lyricist. She doesn’t really take no for an answer. She’s persistent and funny, and the second she started singing, I got goosebumps, like big ones. I only continued to fall in love with Cynthia as I watched her defy the social norms and expectations in the 1960s, all while navigating a working and romantic relationship with her songwriting partner, Barry Mann.”
At intermission, she turned to her husband and said she had to play the part of Weil.
“I don’t always get that feeling about a particular role, but I really try to listen to that intuition when it shows up,” Mathias said. “This one felt special.”
Mathias portrays Weil Feb. 8 to March 30 in the Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre’s production of the play.
“I love her strength and humor and internal fire,” Mathias said. “I love her tenacity and her immense heart, and as a writer and avid Shakespeare admirer, I love that she is also a wordsmith. So, this feels like such a dream.”
Mathias said she realized that she and Weil, who died at age 82 in June 2023, are alike in more ways than she realized.
“Growing up, I tried just about every sport and was good at, truthfully, none of them,” Mathias said. “Then I found musicals and discovered that I could forge a different path for myself. Once I got to college, where I majored in musical theater, it was still all musicals, all the time. But since then, I fell in love with acting and plays. I’ve learned life is all about balance. I can run half marathons and redo my own kitchen and rewire light fixtures in my house and find joy in things that aren’t traditionally feminine and still fully embrace my identity and femininity and power as a woman. And similarly, I can love Shakespeare as much as (Stephen) Sondheim and make artistic homes for myself in both musicals and plays.
“Maybe that’s why I love Cynthia so much, because she also doesn’t feel obligated to comply with society’s expectations of women. She finds balance in what’s right for her, and I admire that so much.”
Mathias said the show is much more than a typical jukebox musical.
“It feels more like a play with music, where the songwriters are writing songs based on what’s happening in their lives, sometimes in as little as an afternoon, but the music is still so universal,” Mathias said. “The show is funny and genuine and is jam-packed with dozens of songs that audiences probably already know. Carole King and Gerry Goffin, as well as Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann, were best friends, insanely competitive, and had prolific careers writing for everyone from Aretha Franklin to Dolly Parton, James Taylor, The Drifters and The Shirelles.”
Devon Perry, originally from Pickerington, Ohio, is making her Beef & Boards debut as Carole King.
Westfield resident Don Farrell plays late music producer Don Kirshner.
“I’m thrilled to play ‘The man with the golden ear,’” Farrell said. “His big thing was that it was a young person’s industry. It was the decade when the teenager was discovered as a demographic to market toward, and he got on to that more quickly than most. His discovery was letting young people write for young artists, and that’s where he discovered Carole King.”
The Brill Building was famous for being a corporate songwriting factory. Farrell said Kirshner was willing to take more risks.
“Young people could come along and say, ‘Would you listen to my song?’ and he would,” Farrell said. “He was a businessman and knew what sold.”
For more, visit beefandboards.com.