‘Beautiful – The Carole King Musical’ arrives at the Fisher Theater

Four friends: Sara Sheperd, Sara King, Ryan Farnsworth and James D. Gish. (Jean Marcus)

Paul Blake, who started out as an actor and is now a prolific Broadway producer, brings Belle – The Carole King Musical at the Fisher Theater January 4-9, 2022.

growing in the Bronx, Paul Blake had never known anti-Semitism. His classmates in high school and New York City College were all Jews.

“I never thought about it,” said Blake, who started out as an actor and is now a prolific Broadway producer bringing Belle – The Carole King Musical at the Fisher Theater January 4-9, 2022.

Like all struggling actors, he went through countless auditions and looked for ways to earn extra income.

“I was a character actor with a very heavy New York accent, so there were a lot of roles that I couldn’t play,” he said.

Ironically, the self-proclaimed “skinny little kid” was cast as Santa Claus at a local bank.

“After three days of work, I was fired because ‘Santa Claus is not Jewish,’ the manager told me. I was shocked. I called the person in charge of human resources and said, ‘There is an anti-Semitic woman who works at the bank.’ “

Blake worked as an actor for seven years until his girlfriend’s mother encouraged him to take a directorial job at the Stephen Wise Free Synagogue, a Reformed synagogue on New York’s Upper West Side.

“And that was the turning point in my life when I found my real career,” said Blake. “My drama teacher who came to the show said I could be a director for a living. And the rabbi who saw the show said to me, “You have to go work at the Catskills and be with our people.

“As I worked with all of these people, I became very aware of my Jewish origin and heritage. I learned Yiddish and I became a showbiz Jew, ”Blake laughs.

The Drifters: Torrey Linder, Edwin Bates, Isaiah Bailey and Ben Toomer.
The Drifters: Torrey Linder, Edwin Bates, Isaiah Bailey and Ben Toomer. Jeanne Marcus
A “Jewish success story”

That was over 60 years ago. Since then, Blake has been the executive producer of St. Louis Muny for 22 seasons where he has produced and / or directed over 150 shows. He left the Muny in 2011 to begin development on the new musical, Beautiful, based on the youth and career of singer / songwriter Carole King. King changed her name from Carol Joan Klein in high school. She has written over 118 pop hits on Billboard’s Hot 100.

“Carole grew up in Queens at the same time I was growing up in the Bronx,” said Blake, who at 80 is a year older than King. “The whole world of Beautiful — The Carole King Musical is all about Jewish children growing up and pursuing careers in New York City. It is a Jewish success story.

And it is successful. Tony and Grammy Award Winner Belle – The Carole King Musical was the 27th longest-running musical in Broadway history when it closed after nearly six years in October 2019, just before the pandemic. The touring production was originally scheduled to perform at the Fisher Theater in May 2020 and has been rescheduled from January 4 to 9, 2022. It resumed touring last month in Chicago. Blake said he was in talks to bring the show back to Broadway and do a film adaptation with Sony Pictures and Tom Hanks and Gary Goetzman as co-producers.

“We are delighted to be returning to Detroit,” said Blake. “This is a total production of Equity because we insist on the highest standards and want to give audiences the best performance possible.”

The Actors’ Equity Association (AEA) is the union of performers and managers that protects the rights of actors, provides fair compensation, benefits and working environments, including strict adherence to safety and security protocols. covid. This North American tour of Belle – The Carole King Musical features many of the cast of the Broadway production. Sara Sheperd, who is Jewish, under-researched the role of Carole King on Broadway and plays the main character in this production.

“Beautiful is filled with the music you grew up with – the soundtrack from your youth, if you’re over 45,” says Blake. “The audience is going to have a great time. “

"Beautiful" Sara Sheperd as Carole King
“Belle” Sara Sheperd as Carole King Jeanne Marcus

Belle – The Carole King Musical takes place January 4-9, 2022 at the Fisher Theater in Detroit. Tickets start at $ 39 (including installation and parking fees) and can be purchased online at www.ticketmaster.com, by phone at 800-982-2787, or in person at the Fisher Theater box office.