by Lorie Lewis Ham
The touring production of Beautiful: the Carol King Musical will be coming to Fresno next week, so KRL took some time to chat with the lead actress, Sarah Bockel, who plays Carole King. Beautiful is a jukebox musical that tells the story of the early life and career of Carole King.
KRL: When did you first become interested in acting?
Sarah: I always loved to sing, and I wasn’t coordinated enough for sports so auditioning for our high schools fall musical was a no brainer. I fell in love with performing, and I ended up working on every single school play until I graduated. It was the reason I woke up in the morning. In college, I started to take acting classes which only deepened my love of theatre; acting showed me the importance of human connection. Theatre became much more than wearing costumes and singing fun songs.
KRL: What are some of the roles you have played professionally?
Sarah: I have played most of my professional Roles in Chicago—Dyanne in Million Dollar Quarter at the Apollo Theatre, Cinderella/Rapunzel in Into the Woods at The Mercury Theatre, and Lucille Frank in Parade at Theatre Wit. I have also done some regional work, most recently at Rocky Mountain Repertory Theatre in Grand Lake, Colorado. I played Madame Thenardie in Les Mis and Dragon in Shrek the Musical.
KRL: Am I correct that you also played the role of Carole King in the Broadway production of Beautiful? If so what was that like?
Sarah: No, I did not play Carole on Broadway, but I did play Betty in the ensemble, and I understudied Carole. Being my Broadway debut, it was a surreal dream to get off the train at 42nd Street to go to “work” everyday. It was also a treat to understudy Abby Mueller again, who I originally understudied on the first year of the National Tour. She was playing Carole on Broadway at the time, so we got to be on stage together again.
KRL: Were you a fan of Carole King before you auditioned for the role?
Sarah: Yes, I have been a fan of Carole King since I was in high school. I collect vinyl records for my portable player and immediately started playing Tapestry nonstop when I was auditioning for Beautiful. I am a big fan of 70s singer/songwriters Joni Mitchell, Stevie Nicks, Carole, etc.
KRL: What do you like best about playing this role?
Sarah: Getting to sing her music every night is what I like best about playing the role. Also, wearing the thick, curly wigs which have about eight times more hair than I have.
KRL: What has been the biggest challenge in playing this role?
Sarah: The biggest challenge is, no joke, maintaining a healthy lifestyle on the road: staying in shape, not eating too many fun foods in new cities. It’s tempting to lay in bed all day, but you have to be active, stay hydrated, and eat your vegetables. It’s also temping to go out after every show, chatting the night away with a few drinks, but it’s not possible to carry the show eight times a week. I had much more fun outside of work when I was playing Betty in the ensemble. It is, however, so worth it to get to be Carole every night.
KRL: When did you join the touring show of Beautiful?
Sarah: I played Betty in the original tour cast so I opened the show with the original cast in Providence, Rhode Island, in 2015. I toured for eighteen months with the cast then left the tour to spend some time at home in Chicago. I got a call they wanted me to take over the role of Carole this past July, so I packed my bags again and rejoined the cast in September.
KRL: What have you done to prepare for this role?
Sarah: I have read Carole’s autobiography, watched countless YouTube videos of her interviews and concerts, but most of the work I do is imagining myself in her circumstances. How I would feel in her shoes. We’re not trying to put on an impersonation of her. Plus, her struggles are so identifiable to so many other people. So I think the show does its best when it’s an honest acting performance, then the audience can connect to her as a person, not a caricature.
KRL: What is a typical day like for you while in this touring show?
Sarah: Oh…pretty boring. I always have big plans to explore the city or hike, etc, but more often than not I relax and try to rest my voice. Again, it’s a constant struggle of balance. I sleep as much as I can, fix breakfast, exercise, hopefully find a local coffee shop, and head to the theatre. Saturday/Sundays are two show days so I’m at the theatre most of the day there. Mondays are our day off and are typically travel days so those days, after the airport, we get our bearings, get to grocery store and unpack.
Beautiful plays in Fresno October 24-29 at the Saroyan Theatre in Fresno. Tickets can be purchased on the Broadway Fresno website. Watch for our review of Beautiful next week!
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