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

By Harry Haun
13 Jan 2014

Jake Epstein
Photo by Monica Simoes

He and Goffin met during the play's tryout in San Francisco and crossed paths again at the party. Epstein said he tried to put the character in as sympathetic light as possible, giving hints and foreshadowing here and there at what a slippery slope he was on.

"Gerry was bipolar, and there was a lot of drugs going on. He had so many thoughts in his head he just couldn't get the words out. This was a guy in the age of Bob Dylan who was such a good pop writer and wanted to be writing more artistic music — that's a struggle. In many ways, the difficulties in his marriage ended up helping him and Carole write all of these unbelievable songs."

Jarrod Spector and Anika Larsen, who steal a fair share of focus playing the young Manns in the musical, were among the curtain-call weepers. "We were all a little bit emotional," Spector admitted. "The overwhelming support from the audience really got to us — plus, we all love Jessie very much — so watching her get the reception that she deserves and being on stage and helping her was such a thrill for everybody."

It was apparent the two actors had thoroughly bonded with their real-life counterparts. "Barry has been so kind and warm and generous with us in real life that to get to try to do him justice on stage has been an honor," said Spector.

Larsen seconded that: "Cynthia's an extraordinary woman. Those are big shoes to fill, but she has been so loving and supporting it's been a joyful, joyful thing. She's sassy, stylish, tremendously good at what she does and writes beautiful music."

Costume designer Alejo Vietti had a hand in shaping Larsen's character and making her stand out, especially in stark contrast to the more drably dressed King (an authentic touch, Weil confirmed). Another fanciful fashion moment takes place when the Goffin's babysetter, in a transforming turn, becomes Little Eva, rock star, selling "The Locomotion." William Ivey Long, who worked the same magic for Cinderella's ballgown last year and won a Tony for it, muttered, "The kids are learning."

As if there wasn't enough love in the massive Cipriani, the real Mann and Weil saw fit to return the serve. Clearly, a mutual admiration society had gripped the group.