Sunday, June 18, 2023

"You've Got a Friend" at History Theatre

Three or four times a year, the History Theatre hosts an event or concert they call "History Theatre Presents." Last night they hosted #TCTheater artists Jen Burleigh-Bentz and Bradley Beahen in a Carole King* / James Taylor tribute concert called You've Got a Friend. Jen was most recently seen on that stage in the ensemble of The Defeat of Jesse James, and Bradley's work as Music Director can frequently be heard on stages around town. In this one-night-only event, they shared songs and stories from two of the greatest songwriters of the second half of the 20th century for a fun night of music.

Jen was a charismatic and engaging host for the evening, sharing her love of Carole King's music. And while Jen's voice is more musical theater belter than folk singer, her powerful voice sounds great on these familiar songs, and she also knows when and how to pull it back for softer moments. She asked her friend Kistina Mitchell, whom she met doing Mamma Mia in Stillwater a few years ago, to join her with some backup vocals, adding richness to the sound. In addition to leading the fantastic four-person band on keyboard, Bradley also sung the James Taylor portion of the evening. Usually he's hidden backstage music directing, so it was great to hear him sing center stage, with a voice well suited to James Taylor.

Highlights of the evening (which would've been a lovely 90-minute no intermission concert, if not for the intermission) include Jen singing pretty much everything from Carole's iconic Tapestry album, including a singalong to "You've Got a Friend," and the perfect finale - "Natural Woman." I'm not as familiar with James Taylor, other than his biggest hits like "Carolina in My Mind," so it was fun to hear those songs, including the super fun "Steamroller Blues." And because this is the History Theatre, Jen also shared a little history about Carole and James and their longtime friendship and partnership (although she assured us they were never an item).

Next up at History Theatre is a remount of their smash hit original musical Glensheen, playing for three weekends only in July. Their new season begins this fall with a full slate of new original plays and musicals (including a Betty Crocker musical I saw a preview of and am super excited about). And watch for more "History Theatre Presents" events like this.

Jen and the band (photo credit: @cherryandspoon Instagram)

*Theatre L'Homme Dieu in Alexandria is producing the Minnesota premiere of the Carole King bio-musical Beautiful this August (time to step up, #TCTheater!).