Whether or not you are familiar with Carole King, you are most certainly familiar with the music of Carole King. She is the songwriter behind such unforgettable hits as "The Locomotion," "One Fine Day," "I Feel the Earth Move," and "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?" Though she did ultimately achieve fame for her solo singing career, she was often content to stay out of the spotlight, lending her fine songwriting skills to gifted voices such as The Chiffons, Aretha Franklin, and The Shirelles. Beautiful: The Carole King Musical traces the life of the young musical prodigy Carole King—born Carole Klein—from the beginnings of her success in her teen years into her 30s. Her marriage to co-songwriter Gerry Goffin opened a lot of doors for her, but she had the talent and drive to take it from there.
Salisha Thomas plays the secretary to music producer Don Kirshner, the lead singer of the Shirelles, and a member of the ensemble in the current touring production of the show. She just loves the musical that she is part of, and is bubbly and full of energy. She had some great things to say about Beautiful, as well as her own budding music career.
"A lot of people know Carole King's name but don't realize who she is," Thomas explains. "This musical goes through her life from when she was 16, up until when she was 30-something. We follow her journey when she met her first husband and the music that they made together."
Thomas recommends that you avoid spoiler alerts when coming to the show. "We always tell people, if you're going to come to the show, don't read the song list in the program because it's always nice to be surprised," she says. "And the whole time on stage, we can hear the audience when they recognize songs that they didn't realize that Carole King wrote."
Thomas has her own fairytale musical story to tell. She used to work at Disneyland in California, singing and playing the part of one of the Disney princess characters. She desperately wanted to move to New York City, so she bought a one-way ticket to go visit the big city for a month or so and see how she would fit in there. During her stay in NYC, she randomly came across a homeless man, who she says must have been an angel. He said to her, "I don't know who you are, but you need to move here, and you need to do it now." Thomas says that she called Disney that very night to put in her two weeks' notice. She then flew back to California, packed up everything she could cram into two suitcases and sold the rest, and moved to New York. That same week, she got a part in Beautiful: The Carole King Musical. Some things are meant to be.
From the first time Thomas saw Beautiful, she was already in love with the show and knew she had to be a part of it. She remembers thinking, "Holy cow, this show is so good! I hope that I can be in this musical, and even if I can't, this is my new favorite show. It was just so well done!"
When asked what the best part of the show is, Thomas responds, "I think you're going to love how the musical makes you feel. The reason why I've been able to do this show eight times a week for going on two years, is because it's so healing. If I'm not having a good day, I get to come to work. I have three hours a day that I get to be a part of a show that has such good music. Feel-good music with a good message."
Her favorite number is "Locomotion," and she says that despite the fact that it is a high-intensity number, it's also a lot of fun. "We're really working our butts off, but we're also having a ball," she says. "That number, in particular, is so transformative for me. By the end of the song, I'm actually having a good time. No matter how I was feeling before, I feel better after that number."
She also has great respect for her co-cast members, and appreciates being surrounded by so much musical skill. "Our Carole King right now is being played by the beautiful and talented Julia Knitel. She's infectious. She's just so loveable. You fall in love with her throughout the course of the show." Thomas admits that at every show, she gets ready early just so that she can make it in time to watch Knitel sing "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?" before having to be on stage herself.
Thomas also tells stories of getting her shoes stuck in tracks on the stage floor and other uniform malfunctions, such as wearing shoes that are two sizes too big for her. She also speaks of working out to stay in shape so that the costumes she was fitted for in 2014 continue to be a perfect fit, despite living on restaurant food and her love of trying the local cuisine in the cities she tours around the country.
But mostly, she recommends coming to see the show.
"Come and enjoy the journey," Thomas encourages. "I really believe you're going to have a good time. When you get into the seat, you'll be trying not to sing out loud." Then, she adds with a laugh, "It's so cliché, but … it really is a beautiful show."
Beautiful: The Carole King Musical is playing Tuesday, March 7 thru Sunday, March 12 at The Saenger Theatre. For more information or tickets, click HERE.