Former Muny Executive Director Paul Blake and Associate Producer Mike Bosner Left St. Louis for New York and Have a Tony-winning Show still running on Broadway
By Lynn Venhaus
After Paul Blake listed “Carole King Musical” on a Muny survey one summer and
it received only a few votes, he worried if the in-the-works “Beautiful” would draw
an audience. His fretting was all for naught, as the musical recently
celebrated its fifth anniversary on Broadway and is currently on its second
The Tony and Grammy Award-winning “Beautiful – the Carole
King Musical” returns to the Fox Theatre for a limited engagement March 12-17.
Sarah Bockel stars as Carole King in national tour of “Beautiful” now playing at the Fox Theatre in St. Louis “I am thrilled that ‘Beautiful’ continues to delight and entertain audiences around the globe, in England, Japan and Australia. We are entering our fourth amazing year of touring the U.S.,” Producer Paul Blake said. “We are so grateful that over five million audience members have been entertained by our celebration of Carole’s story and her timeless music.”
Being the head producer on “Beautiful” has been a dream-come-true experience, he said. Blake took a leap of faith when a record executive contacted him with the idea. And the rest, as they say, is history.
From their New York office, Blake and his co-producer Mike
Bosner, a St. Louis native, recently talked about the show’s success, their
producing partnership, and what they have in the works.
Blake was the executive director of The Muny for 22
seasons, stepping down in 2011. While at the Muny, he created two Broadway
musicals from popular movies, “White Christmas” and “Roman Holiday,” so setting
up shop in New York after his years here was a natural progress.
Bosner was an associate producer at the Muny for five
seasons. Before he graduated fom John Burroughs high school, Wayne Salomon, his
theater director, told him about a Saint Louis University internship at the
Muny in the production office. Working in the business world of theater was
where he wanted to be, and now, he’s an official Tony-nominated Broadway
They are two motivated guys.
“We really love what we do. When you love what you do, it doesn’t seem like
work,” Bosner said.
They are currently working on a couple of new shows, not at
liberty to say what, but will always have a special place in their heart for “Beautiful.”
“This was something special,” Bosner said.
“We are very lucky it has delighted audiences for over five
years – around the world,” Black said.
They work hard putting together shows – ‘So many things to
do!” Blake said, but they wouldn’t have it any other way. “It’s very fulfilling
what we’ve chosen to do.”
He credits the Muny experience for keeping them on their
“If I wouldn’t have done the Muny, I couldn’t get these shows together. It all comes together because we have that experience,” he said. “We learned how to put the best people together at the Muny.”
Since the tour’s launch in September 2015, “Beautiful” has
played 1,130 performances in 82 cities over 142 weeks to nearly 2.5 million
Tony Winner Jessie Mueller as Carole King.Singer-songwriter Carole King’s true-life rise to stardom
is a tailor-made follow-your-dreams story. The chart-topping music legend grew
up in Brooklyn and then fought her way into the record business as a teenager.
By the time she was in her 20s, she was married to college classmate Gerry
Goffin and was flourishing as a songwriter in the fabled Brill Building,
churning out hits for the biggest rock ‘n roll acts.
It wasn’t until her personal life unraveled that she
finally managed to find her true voice, culminating in her landmark solo
“Tapestry” album in 1971, which won four Grammys – including Record, Song and
Album of the Year — and went on to be one of the greatest selling albums of
One of the most successful acts in music history, Carole
wrote the soundtrack to a generation. The “Beautiful” music includes “I Feel the
Earth Move,” “One Fine Day,” “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow,” “(You Make Me
Feel Like) A Natural Woman,” “You’ve Got A Friend,” “So Far Away,” the title
song and many more.
So, Blake was surprised when there wasn’t much love for it
on the end-of-season “What Shows Would You Like to See at the Muny?” survey.
“I was shocked. There was no recognition. I used to put on the
survey shows that didn’t exist, like “White Christmas” – it got six votes and “Roman
Holiday,” which got eight,” he said.
Blake made his debut as a Broadway producer with “Irving
Berlin’s White Christmas,” which opened in 2009. The musical adaptation of the
holiday movie classic had premiered at the Muny in 2000. The show had a second
Broadway run, and has turned into a popular seasonal show at theaters around
“It endures because it’s terrifically entertaining,” he
said. “It’s one of the most requested musicals.”
“Paramount Pictures had hired me to create musicals from
their film catalogue. I picked two – White Christmas and Roman Holiday,” Blake
He and Bosner have re-worked “Roman Holiday,” which will be
coming to Broadway. It had a successful tryout in San Francisco last year. But
before that, it was at the Muny about 12 years ago.
“These things don’t happen overnight,” Blake said. “We feel
we have it right now – it needed some work. It has songs by Cole Porter. We
have always thought it felt like a stage musical,” he said.
“Roman Holiday” is an Oscar-winning movie starring Audrey
Hepburn as a Princess who escapes her confines and explores Rome with
journalist Gregory Peck. Hepburn won Best Actress, Dalton Trumbo won Best Story
and Edith Head won Best Costumes.
It’s on to the next project, but Blake recalls all the
effort that went into making “Beautiful” sparkle.
Bosner said they began working on it in 2009.
“It took five years of talking and trying to get the
contracts settled,” Blake said.
“So, after it got 6 votes, I wondered if there was an
audience for it, but when making ‘Beautiful,’ everyone seemed to know how to do
it. Let’s hope it works, I thought,” Blake said.
“At our very first reading, I asked Disney Theatrical Group
president Thomas Schumacher to come and give us his thoughts. He told me: ‘You
have made a ‘Jersey Boys’ for women.’”
Carole King and Gerry GoffinCarole King was reluctant to see her life played out
publicly, but she gave permission.
“She saw what we were trying to do. She said, ‘I trust you,’
I see where you’re going,’ but she did not want to be involved. She went away.
It was hard for her,” Blake said.
“Four months after we opened, we heard from her. We had
sent her the script. Carole is all about the truth. She went to see the show.
She was stunned. She’s been great. She
let us know she supports us totally and fully,” Blake said.
“She performed at The Tonys. She came to New York City for
the fifth anniversary (Jan. 12). No one knew she was going to be there. They
were filming for CBS and we wanted to have the surprise moment be on camera, so
we didn’t tell the cast. It was sensational,” Blake said.
Carole KingIt wouldn’t be the only time he’s heard that. For women of
a certain age, the music is a walk down memory lane that has them on their feet
at the curtain call, singing loudly to “I Feel the Earth Move.”
First and foremost was the music – beloved songs written by
the husband-and-wife hit machine teams of Gerry Goffin and Carole King, and
Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil.
“It had a bunch of great songs, catchy pop tunes,” Blake
said. “We got the rights, and then Douglas McGrath (a Tony and Academy Award
nominee) put the Brill Building in the book, and that makes it a story. Doug’s
book is so under-appreciated. It is a great book.”
Director Marc Bruni, who has directed at the Muny eight
times, “Singin’ in the Rain,” “My Fair Lady,” “Thoroughly Modern Millie,” “The
Music Man” and “The Sound of Music,” made his Broadway debut with “Beautiful.” He
has since helmed the new production of ‘Roman Holiday.”
The show opened Jan. 12, 2014, on Broadway at the Stephen
Sondheim Theatre, 125 West 43 Street, where it is still playing. It broke all
box office records there and recently became the theatre’s highest grossing
production in its history.
“Beautiful” was nominated for seven Tony Awards in 2014,
including Best Musical, and won two – for Best Lead Actress in a Musical
(Jessie Mueller) and Best Sound Design.
“We were so proud of the show as is, so the nominations
were the icing on the cake,” Bosner said.
The Original Broadway Cast Recording of “Beautiful – The Carole King Musical”
(Ghostlight Records) won the 2015 Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album
and is available on CD, digitally, and on vinyl.
“When asked about the show, nobody says they like it.
Everyone says they love it. There’s a lot of love there, and that’s powerful,”
Blake had said after the Tony nominations.
In addition to the current Broadway and North American
Touring productions, “Beautiful” is also playing internationally, with
productions in Japan, Australia and touring the UK. An award-winning production recently
concluded its run in London’s West End after opening on Feb. 25, 2015.
“We saw it in Japan. It was wonderful,” Blake said.
The producers are now working on a movie version of the
“It’s in pre-production, might be one and half, two years.
We have a draft of a screenplay. The contract is drying as we speak,” Blake
The cast of the Sony/ATV Music Publishing-sponsored North
American tour includes Sarah Bockel as Carole King, Dylan S. Wallach as Gerry
Goffin, Alison Whitehurst as Cynthia Weil, Jacob Heimer as Barry Mann, Muny
alum James Clow as Don Kirshner and Suzanne Grodner as Genie Klein.
The ensemble includes Ben Biggers, Darius Delk, John
Michael Dias, Leandra Ellis-Gaston, Kaylee Harwood, Willie Hill, Alia Hodge,
James Michael Lambert, Harper Miles, Dimitri Joseph Moïse, Ashley Morgan, Deon
Releford-Lee, Nathan Andrew Riley, Paul Scanlan, DeAnne Stewart, Danielle J.
Summons, Alexis Tidwell and Elise Vannerson.
The creative team includes Derek McLane (Set Design), Alejo
Vietti (Costume Design), Peter Kaczorowski (Lighting Design), Brian Ronan
(Sound Design), Charles G. LaPointe (Wig and Hair Design), Steve Sidwell
(Orchestrations and Music Arrangements), Jason Howland (Music Supervision) and
John Miller (Music Coordination). Vietti’s credits include The Repertory
Theatre of St. Louis – “Evita” and
Besides Blake, Bosner and Sony, producers included Jeffrey
A. Sine, Richard A. Smith, Mike Bosner, Harriet N. Leve/Elaine Krauss, Terry
Schnuck, Orin Wolf, Patty Baker/Good Productions, Roger Faxon, Larry Magid, Kit
Seidel, Lawrence S. Toppall, Fakston Productions/Mary Solomon, William Court
Cohen, John Gore, BarLor Productions, Matthew C. Blank, Tim Hogue, Joel Hyatt,
Marianne Mills, Michael J. Moritz, Jr., StylesFour Productions,
Brunish/Trinchero and Jeremiah J. Harris.
Performances Tuesday, March 12, through Sunday, March 17,
are 7:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, and matinees at 2 p.m. Saturday, 1 p.m.
Sunday and 1 p.m. Thursday, March 14.
“Beautiful” is part of the U.S. Bank Broadway series.
Tickets are available through MetroTix.com, by calling 314-534-1111 or in
person at the Fabulous Fox Box Office. For more information, visit
For more information and video, visit
Paul Blake and Mike Bosner attend Beautiful – The Carole King Musical at The Aldwych Theatre, The Aldwych, London on Tuesday 24 February 2015 February 2015
Lynn Venhaus has had a continuous byline in St. Louis metro region publications since 1978. She is a Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic, currently reviews films for Webster-Kirkwood Times and KTRS Radio, covers entertainment for PopLifeSTL.com and co-hosts podcast PopLifeSTL.com…Presents, and writes features and news for Belleville News-Democrat and contributes to other publications. She is a member of CCA, AWFJ and St. Louis Film Critics Association. She is a founding member of the St. Louis Theater Circle.