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Ensemble member steps up in 'Beautiful: The Carole King Musical' at Orpheum

Sarah Bockel as Carole King. Photo by Matthew Murphy. 

Chicago-based actor Sarah Bockel (above, photo by Matthew Murphy) has moved up in the company.

Bockel was an ensemble player in the national tour of “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical,” which played Minneapolis’ Orpheum Theatre in November 2015. Now, she’s headlining the show, playing the legendary singer-songwriter herself in the return engagement that opened Monday at the Orpheum.

The actor flies over a trap that can snare others who star in shows about well-known characters.

In her moving performance, Bockel doesn’t do an impression of King, a Brooklyn reared songwriter with a honkytonk soul. She does an interpretation, and a splendid one at that.

The actor channels the heartbreak and longing that characterizes so much of King’s work.

True, if she wanted to, Bockel and her capable castmates could coast. King wrote 118 songs that charted on the Billboard 100, including “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman,” “You’ve Got a Friend” and “Will You Love Me Tomorrow.” Her influence is deep in the DNA of the culture.

And the songs, under the spirited baton of conductor Susan Draus, tug memories for folks of a certain age.

But Bockel goes all in, helping “Beautiful” be just that. She wakes old emotions and brings new shades to the role of an admired icon.

To mark 20 years since Matthew Shepard's death, Twin Cities theater opens two plays

Gay college student Matthew Shepard was beaten, tortured and tied to a fence on the outskirts of Laramie, Wyoming on Oct. 6, 1998. He died six days later, becoming a martyr in the nation's long march toward justice and inclusivity.

Shepard's remains will finally be laid to rest Friday at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. 

On the same day, a small Twin Cities theater company is opening its production of two dramas inspired by, and testifying to, Shepard’s humanity.

Uprising Theatre is producing Moisés Kaufman’s 2000 docudrama, “The Laramie Project,” and the follow-up, “The Laramie Project: Ten Years Later.”

It’s the first time that both works will be produced simultaneously in the Twin Cities. A cast of seven actors will portray more than 150 characters from both works, under the helm of directors Sarah Catcher and Ashley Hovell. 

Both "Laramie Projects" will have alternate performances at the Howard Conn Theatre at Plymouth Congregational Church, 1900 Nicollet Av. S., Minneapolis.

The plays open Oct. 26 and run thru Nov. 17. Tickets to each play is $20 or $30 for both 612-520-1230 or online.

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