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As the Star of Beautiful's American Tour, Abby Mueller Is Taking Carole King Back on the Road

Fans from across the U.S. are showering Mueller with their love for the Grammy-winning songwriter.

The American national tour of Broadway's Beautiful – The Carole King Musical, which kicked off in September at the Providence Performing Arts Center in Rhode Island, has a full year of stops on its docket. In the coming months, the production's cast will visit cities from Orlando to Los Angeles, but Abby Mueller, the show's star, is most excited about the time they'll be spending in Chicago.

"We're going to be in Chicago over Christmas, and that's where I'm from originally," Mueller, whose sister Jessie was Beautiful's original Broadway star, told TheaterMania. "It's like a dream. I couldn't have planned it if I tried, which I didn't, so it's just awesome that it worked out."

When TheaterMania spoke to Mueller, Beautiful was sitting down at its fourth stop: Pittsburgh's Benedum Center for the Performing Arts. But the show's star had already seen enough of life on the road to share thoughts on embodying a beloved national celebrity…and overpacking.

Curt Bouril (Don Kirshner), Liam Tobin (Gerry Goffin), Abby Mueller (Carole King), Ben Fankhauser (Barry Mann) and Becky Gulsvig (Cynthia Weil) in the national tour of Beautiful.
(© Joan Marcus)

How is the tour going so far?

The vibe is awesome. We're having a blast. We were just in D.C. at The Kennedy Center, which was super fun. D.C. audiences were just off the hook. They came out ready to have a good time, and it's such a smart audience. It was really a kick. People have been responding so strongly to the show, which is understandable, because people love this music and love Carole King.

What has the response from audiences been like?

I've had a lot of people, especially the women, come up to me and say, "Oh my gosh, this was my youth. This was my music. We wore this record out. And it just brought me back." And then also a lot of, "Oh my gosh, I didn't know they wrote all those songs and I didn't know about all the back story."

Star of the Beautiful — The Carole King Musical, Abby Mueller.

What's the most memorable interaction you've had with an audience member?

I think it was at the D.C. opening, one woman said, "I'm sorry, I just have to hug you." I feel like I'm cheating, honestly, because the show is constructed so well and people love Carole King, so I feel like I'm cheating because I feel they're directing so much of that love at us. Just to be able to feel just a small percentage of the overwhelming love that people have for her is such an honor. It's really palpable.

Which moment in the show resonates most with people?

There's a lot of them. I think one of the first big "Ohh" moments is "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow." It changes. Sometimes they applaud "Up on the Roof." The Drifters and The Shirelles have gotten mid-song applause. It really, really varies. That's what's so fun, what people freak out about.

Do audiences behave differently city to city?

It's subtle. Some crowds really get the Little Eva moment — they automatically connect the dots. Some audiences don't. When she reveals her pregnancy, it's interesting to see how that scene plays in different cities. That's the fun of it, I think. We're all getting a kick out of being like, "Oh that went over like gangbusters," or, "Oh my gosh, they laughed at that? Nobody's ever laughed at that."

This is the first time you've toured. What's surprised you about life on the road?

I'll tell you what I'm not surprised by is that I'm a horrible, horrible packer. I just brought too much stuff and I don't feel like I have the right stuff and then my suitcase is overweight…so we're workshopping that. But I think we'll definitely get into a rhythm. It's been great so far, but I mean a lot of times you're traveling on the day off...But I think we've all been navigating it really well so far. And hopefully it'll just get easier.

What have you had the most fun with so far?

Getting to see the country. I don't think I would have ever lived in Washington D.C. for three weeks and we couldn't even scratch the surface of all the stuff to do there. And so that's just such a cool part of it.

And getting to do the show. It's really fun.

What do you think will most surprise audiences who see this show?

I think they may be surprised at the emotional punch of the evening…The patrons that come up to us and you can just see in their faces, they went on a ride, they went on a journey. It's like, great, even if you love the music, this is still a new way to experience it. And for people that don't know it, they're going to be fans after they've seen it.

Abby Mueller as Carole King.
(© Nathan Johnson)
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