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‘Beautiful' Star Finally Takes Center Stage as Leading Lady in Carole King Musical

Actress Sarah Bockel had been on tour with "Beautiful: The Carole King Musical" for about 18 months when she quit. 

The tour had stopped in Detroit over the holidays a couple years ago and it was around Christmas time; Bockel was homesick for her family in Chicago.

The actress, who at the time was in the ensemble and understudied actress Julia Knitel as Carole King, handed in her notice. 

"I felt like I had done the best I could do as a touring actor and I was ready to be at one place - home - for a while, and I quit," Bockel recalled. 

But as fate had it, Bockel was not done with "Beautiful." The Tony Award-winning musical tells the true story of King’s rise to stardom, from her young teenage years onward.

Five months later, the tour called her and asked her if she would be interested in taking over the role of Carole King. 

She said of course. Bockel knew she wasn't done yet. 

"I felt like I was the best person for the job, actually," Bockel said. "I've never been someone to say that about myself, but because of my experience with the show, I just felt like I was capable."

Bockel had spent months understudying stars Abby Mueller (now leading the Broadway cast of "Beautiful") and Julia Knitel. The Chicago actress said she learned so much about portraying Carole King from both of them, knowledge that helped her come into the role the second time around with full confidence. 

From Knitel, she learned how to bring energy to the role; Bockel said she wanted to bring Knitel's passion and drive to her portrayal of Carole King. 

From Mueller, she learned how to ground her portray of Carole. When Mueller is on stage, Bockel said, she draws you in. Even when she sings a song just standing on stage, Bockel recalled, you couldn't take your eyes away. She wanted to bring some of that stillness to her character. 

Bockel said she had spent so much time studying both leading ladies that she felt like she could do the character justice. 

This time around, Bockel said, so much has changed for her. When she was cast for the first time, she recalled, she could never have taken over the role of Carole. She had never been on tour and never been a leading lady. 

"Learning from the women I understudied and being around them and watching them do it - and then coming home again and adjusting to life off the road and being truly ready and having life experiences as well and growing and changing and turning 30...I felt like I really grew into (the role)," Bockel said.

Carole King's story of resilience and perseverance in the face of obstacle after obstacle is one that audiences always relate to, Bockel said. 

"Carole King had so many challenges in her life and roadblocks that could have easily derailed her from becoming the person that reaches so many," Bockel said, going through some of Carole's life detailed in the musical: having a child at 16, going through high school with a baby, songwriting with her husband after school and her marital issues. 

Any one of those obstacles would have stopped another person in her shoes, and any one of those obstacles could have led her down a different path, Bockel said.

"One of my favorite lines in the show is, 'sometimes life goes the way you want, sometimes it doesn't, and sometimes when it doesn't, you find something beautiful,'" Bockel said. "She turned her heartbreak into art."

"She grew from (her challenges) and used them to her advantage, and that's what I think everyone can gain from the show," Bockel said.

"Beautiful: The Carole King Musical" runs from Oct. 2 to Oct. 7. You can get tickets here

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