PLAYBILL ON OPENING NIGHT: It's Good to Be the King of Beautiful

By Harry Haun
13 Jan 2014

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Last to arrive, making a fashionably late Star entrance which she had definitely earned, was Mueller, who didn't hesitate a beat about going into a full complement of print and radio-TV interviews, seeming none the worse for wear. Ah, the price of stardom!

First of all, King's absence didn't bother her a whit. If anything, she was sympathetic about it. "We got to meet her, and she explained to us that the story covers some very painful points in her life and is so personal, it's impossible for her to watch. I completely respect that. If and when she ever wants to show up, we'll be thrilled.

"She is such an icon in the business, and, at the same time, she is such an un-starlike star. I find that fascinating in people who are in the public eye. She's really someone to look up to now. And the music is so good — you just can't argue with that."

Mueller is hard-pressed to find a favorite moment (she has a rather overstuffed selection). "It changes from night to night," she confessed, "but it's always very satisfying to get to the end and sit down at that piano and sing 'Beautiful' and think about everything that happened prior. On that lyric, it's a very moving experience."

She also likes the way the first few bars of a familiar song trigger sounds in the audience. "We hear sighs and 'ohs' and sometimes even the name of the song. People have such a relationship with this music, deeper than they know, and that makes it very special for us because the music means something to people when they come in, and then, once they have seen the play, it means something different to them after that."

She also senses the whole audience shifting to her corner at the end of Act I as her husband announces his infidelity. "It feels like everybody's stomach just dropped."

At that particular moment when Mueller is getting a love overload from the audience, Jake Epstein, who plays the sad and hapless Goffin, is on the receiving end of an Arctic air blast from them. "You can feel the daggers," he shivered. "When I apologize to her in the hospital room, I feel them with me. When Gerry cheats again, I'm the enemy. I'm a roller-coaster ride for the audience. I can feel them with me, hating me, understanding me. The audiences have been great and really different."