The show stars Jessie Mueller as Carole King and Mueller's performance is the highlight of the album. The experienced performer recently won a Tony award for her work on this musical, and even just through the album, it is easy to see why. Mueller's versions of many of King's most famous songs, including "Will You Love Me Tomorrow" and "I Feel the Earth Move" are easily the best part of the recording. Her performance never feels like it is an impression or imitation of King; rather, Mueller manages to capture King's recognizable essence and tone while maintaining Mueller's own unique style and voice.
The rest of the cast does a fine job as well, even though no performance stands out nearly as much as Mueller's. Jake Epstein performance as Gerry Goffin, worked well, in particular. His duet with Mueller, "Take Good Care of My Baby", is fun, and a great way to showcase Epstein's voice. In addition to Epstein, Jarrod Spector and Anika Larson stood out among the rest of the cast in their (respective) performances as Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil. Spector and Larsen each have their own solos, but their duet, "Walking in the Rain", is also a fantastic addition to the album.
Despite epic performances from the show's stars, the cast recording shows how Beautiful ultimately falls into the trap that most "jukebox" musicals do: it sometimes feels like a cheap, gimmick-filled series of song-covers and imitations.
Also, I feel like this is a very picky note about the album, but at times, there are way too many lines of dialogue infused into the recording. Yes, I understand that dialogue is a necessary part of every Broadway cast recording, but the dialogue on this recording seems excessive and it often distracts from the beautiful songs.
Overall, this recording is certainly a step up from most "jukebox musicals" of the past few years. It is easy to get lost in, and even fall in love with, the contemporary classics recreated by the talented cast. Jessie Mueller's performance itself makes the album worth buying and listening too, but the cast, in general, succeeds in making the songs feel fresh, yet timeless. Basically, the recording achieves what I think that all cast albums need to: the recording leaves the listener singing all of the songs from the show and makes you want to see the full production.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
The cast recording of Beautiful: The Carole King Musical is available for digital download on iTunes and on CD through Amazon.com.