Beautiful: The Carole King Musical at Chanhassen Dinner Theatres

March 11, 2024
Woman in a blue dress with long curly hair playing a piano and singing
Photo credit Dan Norman, 2024 (courtesy Chanhassen Dinner Theatres)

Thank you to Chanhassen Dinner Theatres for providing me with two complimentary press night tickets, drinks, and dessert.  As always, all opinions are my own, and photos are my own unless otherwise credited.

Singer-songwriter Carole King is a musical icon: she wrote or co-wrote 118 pop hits on the Billboard Hot 100, she's won four Grammy awards, and she has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame not once but twice, both as a performer and as a songwriter.  You can learn more about her career and personal life—and enjoy dozens of her songs—at Chanhassen Dinner Theatres with Beautiful: The Carole King Musical.

Chanhassen Dinner Theatres is conveniently located to Minneapolis and St. Paul, and your show ticket includes a table-service meal.  The theater gave me complimentary tickets to a Friday night press preview show (ticket prices range from $64-$105)—here's my review of the food and the show.

White plate with steak, mushrooms, mashed potatoes, and a side of carrots and green beans
Grilled top sirloin

Beautiful: The Carole King Musical Dinner Menu

As I mentioned above, tickets include your choice of entree, which is served with bread and butter and during evening performances, a side salad.  The menu is similar to previous shows, with familiar entrees like Chicken Chanhassen, grilled top sirloin, vegetable lasagna, and vegan Impossi-Loaf.  A few items have been tweaked or added since the last show I attended, including the smoked blackened orange roughy served with a dill yogurt sauce and a cranberry pear salad.  Four entrees are vegetarian, one is vegan, and four are gluten-free.

Mike opted for the grilled top sirloin, a classic Chanhassen Dinner Theatres entree.  He added the sauteed mushrooms (a $3 upcharge), and the sirloin was served with roasted garlic mashed potatoes and fresh seasonal vegetables, in this case carrots and green beans.  The steak was perfectly cooked to medium as requested, and the mashed potatoes had a nice punch of garlic—they're unexpectedly flavorful.

A plate with a large piece of vegetable lasagna with carrots and green beans on the side
Vegetable lasagna

I ordered the vegetable lasagna, a hefty portion of noodles layered with ricotta, mushrooms, carrot, celery, and onion, plus housemade marinara and mozzarella and Parmesan.  It tastes homemade, and I mean that as a compliment: it's satisfying and prepared with care, with a nice balance of vegetables to cut the richness of the cheese.  The portion is very generous, and it's also served with side of seasonal vegetables (carrots and green beans) which were crisp-tender and well-seasoned.  The marinara sauce was a bit too sweet for my taste, but that's a minor quibble with an overall enjoyable dish.

Tulip dish with vanilla ice cream, fudge, strawberries, blackberries, and a rectangular cinnamon cookie
Northwoods Sundae

Dessert is available for an additional surcharge, with items including sundaes, cheesecake, and cakes.  Three items are gluten-free.

Mike gave high marks to the Northwoods Sundae ($9), a dish of vanilla ice cream topped with fudge, strawberries, blackberries, and a crispy cinnamon cookie.  The flavor combination worked well, and the ice cream was delivered to our table at the perfect temperature—service at Chanhassen Dinner Theatres is like a well-oiled machine (remember to tip your server!  If you don't order any extra items, leave some cash.)

Slice of carrot cake on a white plate
Grandma's Traditional Carrot Cake

During past shows I've admired slices of Grandma's Traditional Carrot Cake ($8) going by, so this time I ordered it for myself.  It's amazing—the cake is wonderfully moist and not too sweet, with a nice nutty flavor from the pecans and walnuts, and the coconut cream frosting is gloriously rich with a nice tang.  Added bonus: it's raisin-free! 

Coffee, tea, and milk are included with your meal, and soda and other beverages are available for an additional charge.  Chanhassen Dinner Theatres also offers a full bar menu, with wine by the glass and bottle, beer, specialty cocktails, mocktails, and boozy ice cream drinks.  Most of the cocktails skew fairly sweet, but if you prefer something spirit-forward my go-to drink is the Chanhattan ($10)—it's a Manhattan, made with Bulleit rye whiskey.

Dinner is served before the show starts, and dessert, coffee, and any additional drinks you'd like are served during intermission.  There isn't food or beverage service during the show.

Woman with long curly hair singing into a microphone
Photo credit Dan Norman, 2024 (courtesy Chanhassen Dinner Theatres)

Beautiful: The Carole King Musical at Chanhassen Dinner Theatres

I went into the show not knowing much about Carole King—I was familiar with some of her hits as a singer-songwriter, especially "I Feel the Earth Move" and "You've Got a Friend" but I didn't realize that she had written so many songs I love from the 1960s, including "Will You Love Me Tomorrow", "The Loco-Motion", "Up on the Roof", and "I'm into Something Good".

Beautiful covers about 15 years of Carole's life, from the late 1950s through her 1971 concert at Carnegie Hall.  Much of the plot focuses on her career trajectory as a songwriter and her creative collaborations with her husband and songwriting partner Gerry Goffin, as well as friends and fellow songwriters Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann.  The show also delves into Carole's personal life and her journey to find her own voice as a lyricist and singer.

Monet Sabel's performance as Carole is really what makes Beautiful shine.  She nails Carole's vocal style, but she also develops her into a multi-dimensional character, with a wry sense of humor and realistically portrayed love for her husband, even as their marriage unravels.  Sabel makes the audience feel Carole's self-doubt and low points, which makes her eventual success as a solo singer-songwriter all the more triumphant.

Shinah Hey as Cynthia Weil and Alan Bach as Barry Mann infuse a lot of heart into their supporting performances as a songwriting couple, and it was a delight whenever they appeared on stage.  Shad Hanley, who plays Carole's husband Gerry Goffin, ably channels both the charm that makes Carole fall for him, and his later emotional breakdown isn't overplayed (In real life, Gerry struggled with mental illness and substance abuse, which the show briefly touches on.)  Michael Gruber, who plays record executive Don Kirshner, and Kim Kivens, who plays Carole's mother Genie, do a great job of grounding their broadly comedic roles.

Four people sitting on a piano bench
Photo credit Dan Norman, 2024 (courtesy Chanhassen Dinner Theatres)

Many of Carole, Gerry, Cynthia, and Alan's songs are performed by the ensemble, with an enthusiastic energy that makes the show feel fast-paced and exciting.  The production design, especially the costuming, deserves a mention—outfits subtly shift throughout the show to signal the passing of time, in a way that feels natural instead of forced. 

There's a line in the show when Carole questions why she should sing her own songs: "Who wants to see a normal person sing?"  Another character responds, "Other normal people!"

Although she always saw herself as a "normal person" Carole's incredible musical abilities make her someone extraordinary.  Thanks to the talents of Chanhassen Dinner Theatres' Beautiful cast and crew, when Carole finds her confidence at the end of show, it feels like we've found something, too.

Beautiful: The Carole King Musical is scheduled to run through September 28, 2024.  Learn more and purchase tickets via the Chanhassen Dinner Theatres website.

Chanhassen Dinner Theatres provided me with complimentary press tickets, drinks, and dessert, but I didn't receive any additional compensation for this blog post.

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