Benedum Hosts ‘Beautiful: The Carole King Musical’; ‘Elephant Wrestler’ at August Wilson Center (Fri., 10/30/15)

1) In Broadway language, a “jukebox musical” is one that uses existing songs while a “bio-musical” tells the story of a real person or persons, and usually a show is not both. Example: Mamma Mia! uses the songs of ABBA but does not tell the story of ABBA, since that much ABBA might be too much ABBA. Ah, but Beautiful: The Carole King Musical is both. It traces the renowned pop artist’s rise from hit songwriter to performer of hits that she wrote, cowrote, or had written for her. The performance features more than two dozen signature Carole King songs, including “So Far Away,” “I Feel the Earth Move,” “One Fine Day” (video above, which she cowrote for The Chiffons), and more. The show—by Douglas McGrath, with songs by King, Gerry Goffin, Barry Mann, Cynthia Weil, and others—is still playing on Broadway; last year it was nominated for seven Tony Awards and won two (including Best Leading Actress in a Musical for Jessie Mueller as King), and a national touring company brings Beautiful to Pittsburgh. 8 p.m. Runs through Sunday. Benedum Center, 237 7th St., Cultural District.

 

A poor chaiwallahÕs (tea seller) life is changed forever when a young girl is abandoned at a busy railway station and brings the place to a standstill with the beauty of her singing. An honest young policeman falls hopelessly in love but is rejected in favor of a disreputable poet. The contradictions of modern India with its iphones and ancient gods form the backdrop to this story about the dangers of keeping your soul locked in a cage. Award winning actor Jacob Rajan combines with musician David Ward to bring this intimate epic to life. Photo: Robert Catto.

A poor chaiwallahÕs (tea seller) life is changed forever when a young girl is abandoned at a busy railway station and brings the place to a standstill with the beauty of her singing. Award winning actor Jacob Rajan combines with musician David Ward to bring this intimate epic to life. Photo: Robert Catto.

2) Seriously now: Are you ready for something completely different? They don’t get much more different than The Elephant Wrestler. It’s a seriously funny (and globally acclaimed) touring show from the Indian Ink Theatre Company, which creates plays about India but is based in New Zealand, the small country that’s home to more cool multicultural phenomena per capita than just about anywhere. The Elephant Wrestler deals with the elephant in many people’s living rooms—the nagging feeling that life is meaningless, work is a drag, etc. etc.—and it is a play acted and sung primarily by one person with a musician accompanying. The actor is Jacob Rajan, known for his ability to work the audience like a standup comic while also combining the skills of a master storyteller, thespian, and all-around performing-arts genius. In some places, The Elephant Wrestler has been called The Guru of Chai since the main character is a chaiwallah or tea seller … but in Pittsburgh we’re calling an elephant wrestler an elephant wrestler and the show is brought here as part of the Cultural Trust’s India in Focus series. 8 p.m. August Wilson Center, 980 Liberty Ave., Cultural District. (MV)

3) Here’s how it works in theater journalism. Companies put out promotional blurbs about their plays, and even if the blurbs are good, you can’t just reprint them, because that’s being lazy. But once in a blue moon you get one that defies you to top it. Here is Throughline Theatre Company’s description of José Rivera’s Brainpeople.

“Breaking curfew and defying a nameless, faceless authority in the outside world, Mayannah has invited Ani and Rosemary to a peculiar dinner party. With the host promising her guests each a large sum of money if they can stay for the entire meal, the three women partake in a lavish feast of Tiger in observance of a mysterious anniversary. As the party progresses, their reality unravels, their sanity fractures, and their futures are irreversibly altered.”

Got it? Throughline is doing Brainpeople at Grey Box Theatre, 3595 Butler St. Lawrenceville. 8 p.m. Ends tomorrow. (MV)