Ladies Night — Carole King, Diana Ross and Aretha Franklin Take the Stage in a New Kind of Spotlight

By Karu F. Daniels
27 Nov 2013

Jessie Mueller
Photo by Joan Marcus
Jessie Mueller as Carole King
Beautiful, Stephen Sondheim Theatre

Taking on the title role of the revered singer-songwriter of timeless '60s and '70s songs like "A Natural Woman," "You've Got a Friend," and "I Feel the Earth Move" was no small task for Evanston, IL, native Jessie Mueller, since so much isn't known about the six-time Grammy Award–winning music legend — outside of her discography. "It's not like now where everybody's out there in Us Weekly, and have a Facebook and a Twitter page, and you know every thing about every artist, and you can just Google them," Mueller quipped. "We knew her music but we didn't know that much about her. So there's a lot of stuff that surprised me greatly about her personal story." A wave of emotion came over the Tony-nominated scene-stealer (of 2011's On a Clear Day You Can See Forever) when she learned she won the coveted spot playing King. "It was that thing of, 'Oh my gosh, this is great,' and 'Oh my gosh, this is terrifying' and 'What a great opportunity' and 'I don't want to screw this up,' all that kind of stuff."

An alumna of Syracuse University, Mueller hails from a family of theatre actors. Her parents worked for years in Chicago, while her siblings are all professional thespians too. Her sister recently starred in a regional production of 1776, and her younger brother is in Peter and the Starcatcher. "I think that's how I came to this, I was kind of immersed in it at a young age." The former star of Broadway's The Mystery of Edwin Drood said she first knew of King's iconic music from her mother, who was a huge fan during her college years. "'So Far Away' is one of my favorites... but there's a lot of stuff post-Tapestry that I'm really loving." At the time of publishing, Mueller hasn't yet met the woman she's portraying, but she's looking forward to doing so. "I feel very, very blessed to be a part of something like this... We believe so much in the story and have so much respect for the material."