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Behind-the-scenes with actor Jacob Heimer in Carole King Broadway musical “Beautiful”

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The smash Broadway hit Beautiful – The Carole King Musical chronicles the life and career of legendary singer-songwriter Carole King, from the late 1950s to the early 1970s.

Jacob Heimer stars as Barry Mann in “Beautiful” musical about Carole King (Photo courtesy Broadway Across Canada / evenko)

Jacob Heimer stars as Barry Mann in Beautiful musical about Carole King (Photo courtesy Broadway Across Canada / evenko)

From being part of a chart-topping songwriting team with her husband Gerry Goffin – with whom she cranked out some of the most important records of the Brill Building era – to her relationship with another iconic songwriting duo, her best friends Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann, this jukebox musical showcases many classic hits, including “I Feel The Earth Move,” “One Fine Day,” “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” and “You’ve Got A Friend.”

The musical also features pop songs written by Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil for such artists as Dolly Parton, Tony Orlando, The Drifters and The Animals.

This North American touring production opens in Montreal in February 12, and stars Sarah Bockel as Carole King – Bockel also understudied Tony-winning Jessie Mueller as King on Broadway – and actor Jacob Heimer who plays Barry Mann.

I recently sat down with Heimer for a fun Q&A about Beautiful, which headlines Salle Wilfred-Pelletier at Place des Arts for eight performances, from February 12 to 17.

How did you prepare for the role of Barry Mann?

Jacob Heimer: The good thing about playing a real person is you can do a lot of research about that person. There’s this great book called Always Magic in the Air: The Bomp and Brilliance of the Brill Building Era, and there are a million stories in the book about Barry Mann during the period I play him. That was my ground floor. Also, the script is written like a really wonderful play, so it does not feel like I am in a jukebox musical – I am in a play with really great music.

Was it intimidating to meet the real-life Barry?

JH: It was intimidating when I knew he was in the audience, and he was really wonderful once I got to meet him because he is a such a warm-hearted nice guy. He also made me laugh a lot.

But there is also a weight to playing somebody who is real, who is there in the audience, and I take that very seriously. Barry’s character in the play is the comic relief in many ways, and I try to make that as real as possible.

I don’t want my performance to look like a caricature, and Barry said many nice things about my portrayal.

You had opportunity to study at Shakespeare’s Globe theatre in London. What was that like?

JH:  It was incredible. I studied theatre at Syracuse University which has a program where I could work with the Globe masters. Being in college and obsessed with theatre, just be there was a daily mind expander. London is such an incredible theatre town, and to perform with my fellow students on that stage made me fall even deeper in love with my craft. It was a theatre geek’s dream.

Barry Mann got started in showbiz at a young age, as did you. Are there any similarities trying to break into the business, in 1960 compared to today?

JH:  I think there are a lot of similarities between the songwriters of the 1960s and struggling actors today, where you are only as good as your last job. Those songwriters were desperate to come up with hits every single day. It’s the same thing with actors – we need to pound the pavement to get into the room just to get a shot at the next job. So much of the job is getting someone else to accept that you can do the job. Then hopefully you get to continue to work.

Does it get easier?

JH:   No, I don’t think it does. I am feel incredibly fortunate to be a part of this tour. I’ve never had an acting job before where they said, “We’re going to give you a steady job with pretty good income for the next year.” That’s really rare in this business. I mean, two of my mentors – two of the greatest actors in New York right now – are always worried about the next job, despite all the accolades and awards. You’re only as good as your last job.

Beautiful – The Carole King Musical headlines Salle Wilfred-Pelletier at Place des Arts for eight performances, from February 12 to 17, including 2 pm matinees on Saturday, February 16, and Sunday, February 17. For tickets, visit evenko.ca.

Top Photo: Courtesy Broadway Across Canada / evenko.

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About Richard Burnett

Richard “Bugs” Burnett self-syndicated his national column Three Dollar Bill in over half of Canada’s alt-weeklies for 15 years, has been banned in Winnipeg, investigated by the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary over charges TDB was “pornographic”, gotten death threats, outed politicians like former Parti Quebecois leader Andre Boisclair, been vilified in the pages of Jamaica’s national newspaper The Gleaner for criticizing anti-gay dancehall star Sizzla (who would go on to write the 2005 hit song “Nah Apologize” about Burnett and UK gay activist Peter Tatchell), pissed off BB King, crossed swords with Mordecai Richler, been screamed at backstage by Cyndi Lauper and got the last-ever sit-down interview with James Brown. Burnett was Editor-at-Large of HOUR until the Montreal alt-weekly folded in April 2011, is Editor-at-Large of The Charlebois Post (Canada), is a columnist and writer for both Fugues and Xtra, writes the POP TART blog for The Montreal Gazette, and is the pop culture pundit on The Barry Morgan Show every Friday from 8:30 – 9 pm on Montreal’s CJAD 800 AM Radio. Burnett was named one of Alberta-based Outlooks magazine’s Canadian Heroes of the Year in 2009, famed porn director Flash Conway dubbed Burnett “Canada’s bad boy syndicated gay columnist” and The Montreal Buzz says, “As Michael Musto is to New York City, Richard Burnett is to Montréal.”

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