Vanessa Carlton channels Carole King on Broadway

NEW YORK (AP) — Over the years, the Broadway show about singer-songwriter Carole King has starred powerful singers in the title role. But until now it hasn’t had one thing — a singer-songwriter.

Vanessa Carlton (pic below) has bravely stepped into the role of the legendary King without much musical theatre experience but lots from being a young woman songwriter trying to discover her own voice.

Carlton, who has had ups and downs since her breakout 2002 single, A Thousand Miles, read the script for Beautiful: The Carole King Musical and cried. Then she thought of her own life.

“I thought, ‘Okay there’s something here that I think I can bring myself. I can bring some of my own essence to this and maybe it will make it better somehow or different or feel different or bring some kind of unique energy to it that will be cool’.”

Beautiful is based on King’s life from when she was a teenage songwriter in New York to her time as a wife, mother and co-author of scores of recognisable songs, including Will You Love Me Tomorrow and (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman.

Though King and Carlton created music in different eras, the younger singer-songwriter easily recognised similar experiences: the stress of auditioning a song, being a young woman in the music industry, the need to manage men’s feelings, the frustrations and joys of the creative process, and being a working mom.

“It’s the story of someone taking great risk,” Carlton said. “I really wanted to help honour the arc of the story. But I do have a lot of personal experiences that I am channeling in a lot of the scenes.”

Carlton is still somewhat shocked to be making her Broadway debut. She may have attended many shows growing up in New York, but she studied ballet and piano, not musical theatre.

“It was emotional for me to get through the show the first time,” she said. “It’s a lot of work. And it was so exhilarating. And it just kind of worked out. I just cried at the end. ‘I did it! Now I have to do it 79 more times. How is this going to happen?'”