Broadway’s award winning Beautiful – The Carole King Musical arrives at the Providence Performing Arts Center next week and WhatsUpNewp had a chance to speak with cast member and Tiverton, RI native John Michael Dias.
The show tells the story of Carole King, the legendary singer-songwriter who arrived in New York City at age 16 and changed the musical landscape. Beautiful began its Broadway run in 2014 and the national tour began in Providence in September 2015. Its been going strong ever since.
Dias grew up in Tiverton and graduated from Bishop Connolly High School. This will be his fourth time performing at PPAC with a national tour – he was in the cast of Oklahoma in 2004, performed as Frankie Valli in Jersey Boys in 2010, and was here for the opening of Beautiful in 2015.
Award Winning Show
Carole King’s story is one of empowerment and vindication, where a strong-willed teenager set out to conquer the world and eventually succeeded. Dias explained how Beautiful reveals the evolution of a hit song.
“It’s a play with music, it’s not really a musical in the conventions that we expect. The whole show starts with exposing her as a 16-year-old in New York City. The musical numbers that happen are not really theatrical numbers in the way that happens when someone is emoting in a song. In writing the song, they’re pitching the song, the song gets bought, and then and you see the song transformed onstage by The Drifters or The Shirelles. You see the song from pen to performance. It’s sort of magical in that way.
“When we first started it was a good show, now with the #metoo and the women’s movement it’s about a woman taking control of her destiny and making it on her own in a man’s world. It was unheard of for a woman to be a composer back then. Her mom has a line in the show ‘Girls don’t write music, they teach it. Get your degree and be a teacher.’”
The show’s popularity continues to grow. “We’ve been out here since 2015, and there’s no end date in sight. Our first city was Providence. We opened there in September 2015. The message has become more relevant as we’ve been on the road. It’s even more of an important story to tell now. People are on their feet at the end of every show. It’s an uplifting story, it’s music that everyone’s heard, whether they know it or not. It’s such a good catalog of music.”
Family Roots in Theater
Dias’ interest in theater can be partially attributed to his grandmother.
“I grew watching all the big shows there – I saw Phantom and Les Miz at PPAC. My grandmother was heavy into performance, she was a dancer and did community theatre. She ended up being a forelady at one of the factories which meant she could sew and then she ended up doing wardrobe at the Little Theatre in Fall River. Growing up I would help her with the clothes or with making hats and stuff like that on Saturday morning.
“I was with her at one of the rehearsals and I always sang along, because good Catholic boys always sing in choir. They needed another boy for The Music Man and, she was like, ‘I’ve got a boy’ and they pulled me in. I was 12 and that was my first exposure to actually doing a big show like that. It was exciting; we performed on a big stage at Bristol Community College in Fall River. I never turned back after that.”
For his part, Dias plays several characters in the production.
“I’m the first guy you see in the show. I play Neil Sedaka and sing “Oh, Carol,” a song that was written for her. I also play one of the Righteous Brothers, Bobby Hatfield, and then I play Lou Adler, who produced the Tapestry album. I probably have the weirdest transition look-wise of the entire show. I start out as Neil Sedaka in the ‘60’s and end up looking like a bearded long-haired bell bottomed hippy. It’s pretty funny.”
Dias is currently based in New York, but he’s a true Rhode Islander at heart. He noted “I’m excited to be on the East Coast. I suffer when I’m not near salt water.” He looks forward to a meal on Federal Hill and some Portuguese sweet bread and regrets that there won’t be a Waterfire when the show is in town.
In addition to Dais, Beautiful stars Sarah Bockel as Carole King, Andrew Brewer as Gerry Goffin, Sarah Goeke as Cynthia Weil, Jacob Heimer as Barry Mann, James Clow as Don Kirshner, and Suzanne Grodner as Genie Klein.
Beautiful runs from February 27-March 4 at PPAC in Providence. Tickets and further information available here.