Every generation has its own musical voice.
For the women of the 1960s and 70s, no voice was stronger than that of singer/songwriter Carole King.
King, who wrote classics such as “I Feel The Earth Move,” “It’s Too Late” and “A Natural Woman,” went on to become one of the most successful female songwriters of the latter half of the 20th century.
While her career seemed to take off quickly when she was young, success didn’t always come easy for King. In her personal life and her music King struggled to overcome hurdles, but she never gave up.
It’s fitting, then, that another musician who began her career early joins the cast of “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical” which celebrates King’s story. Becky Gulsvig joins the cast as King’s best friend, Cynthia Weil.
Gulsvig began her training in the Fargo/Moorhead area before moving to New York City at 17. Most recently she returned to St. Paul as Elle Woods in the national tour of “Legally Blonde.”
Gulsvig took some time before the opening of “Beautiful” to discuss the show and what she misses most about Minnesota.
As the title eludes to, the musical tells the story and celebrates the life of musician Carole King. In your words, why do you think King is so important in the music industry?
Gulsvig: I think Carole King is important for a lot of reasons. First of all, her work is brilliant and speaks for itself. On top of that she gave a voice to a generation of women and her songs since then have become the soundtrack of many generations’ lives. It’s really quite amazing.
As you mentioned her music spoke for a certain generation of women. For younger audience members that may not know King, what can they get from watching her story?
Gulsvig: I love that younger generations get to see this story and hear this music! It is a very inspirational story about following your dreams, working hard and not giving up no matter what life throws at you. King has a great line at the beginning, “Sometimes life goes the way you want and sometimes it doesn’t, and when it doesn’t sometimes you find something beautiful.” I think this is a really great thing to remember for all of us and a great message to pass along to the next generation of dreamers.
I think so too! King sounds like a wonderful role model when it comes to perseverance. So, tell me, what is your favorite part about playing King’s best friend Cynthia Weil?
Gulsvig: I love playing Weil because she is so smart, strong, funny and real. It is a joy to play the ups and downs of her work and her relationship with Barry Mann. I also love being a friend to King throughout the show and giving that layer of good friendship to the show.
What do you find challenging about this character?
Gulsvig: The thing that seemed challenging at the start was the fact that Weil was, and is, a real person who will eventually come to see the show! She wrote me an email for opening wishing me luck and I can’t wait to meet her. It has been nice that the creative team gave us a great framework as far as the character goes but we were also given room to make things our own a bit. We didn’t have to do any sort of impersonation.
Wow! How fun that she will be coming to see the show! As Weil, what is your favorite scene in the show?
Gulsvig: I love the top of Act II. It is a wonderful scene with King leading into a great scene/song with Mann. Abby, our King, is just amazing and I adore working with her. And Ben, our Mann, is so terrific and the relationship ups and downs that we get to play are so fun and funny, but in this moment we come back together and it’s really lovely.
It sounds like there are a lot of really wonderful moments, and music, in the show. What is your favorite Carol King song?
Gulsvig: It is very hard to pick ONE! I have always loved “You’ve Got A Friend.” Since being a part of this show, I also really love “Beautiful.” They both have such great lyrics and melodies that just warm your heart and lighten your soul.
So, you’re a native Minnesotan but moved to New York when you were 17 to pursue acting. What is one thing about Minnesota you miss while living in New York?
Gulsvig: The lake cabin!!!
That is a very Minnesotan answer! What is one thing you have to do when you return to Minnesota?
Gulsvig: Go to the lake cabin!!
I should have guessed! So, what advice would you have for aspiring actors and actresses from this area who are hoping to move out to Chicago, L.A. or New York?
Gulsvig: I would say don’t be afraid to try a new place! The world gets smaller and more comfortable once you get out there and go for it. There are so many great places to see, people to meet and things to try. Explore and find your own way to make your dreams happen. Also be yourself and always strive to be your best self. Nobody is exactly like you and that is your strength. And don’t forget to have fun!!