One of the components of a successful musical is the performances carried by the actors. Nothing could be closer to the truth for “Beautiful—The Carole King Musical.” Based on the musical journey of the legendary singer/songwriter Carol King—the ensemble cast gives a riveting and nostalgic performance bringing King’s hit songs to life.
Both Josh Dawson and Avery Smith are part of the production tour which runs in Chicago at the Cadillac Palace through January 8. The Chicago Defender spoke with both actors—one experiencing his first professional tour and another who is wrapping up his chapter with the production.
Homewood Flossmoor, a suburb south of Chicago, is where Avery Smith grew up most of his childhood. He can recall his family’s influence in the acting world.
“When I was little, I would see my uncle on TV and doing things that I felt like I got to see it. I guess [I got to see] the reality of the industry in a very grand way just because it was right in front of our eyes as kids. As soon as we got older, I transitioned into it. I have cousins who are writers and producers and some family friends, friends of my parents, who still do it,” said Smith.
Having graduated from Homewood Flossmoor High School and heading to The Boston Conservatory, eventually acquiring his B.A. from Carnegie Mellon University—Smith immediately dived into his first professional role in “Beautiful.” He is grateful for his parent’s encouragement and support.
“Chicago’s like big but so small. I think they were very supportive and I think we were just people of faith and just believed whatever is meant for you is not going to pass you up,” he says.
Josh Dawson has a couple notches on his acting belt working on national tour “The Broadway Boys,” Wynton Marsalis Jazz at Lincoln Center and regional theater companies with performances at the Dallas Theatre Center and the Paramount Theatre in Chicago.
The son of a minister, Dawson is from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, but eventually moved with his family to Dallas, Texas.
“I grew up singing in the church where I played piano and drums at my dad’s church. Music has been a crucial part of my life for a very long time. My dad decided to up and move the family to Dallas to start a church,” he said.
He sang in the church choir in addition to being involved in high school plays. He attended the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music and moved to New York to take a short break from school. Dawson finished his theater training and education at the University of Michigan.
“I worked at the Paramount Theater in Chicago and spent a lot of time doing a lot of shows there. Just working here and there and going all over the country and the world. That brought me to “Beautiful.” I’m actually one of four original cast members still in the company so I’ve been here for about two and a half years on the road.”
Newcomer Smith is excited to see travel and be a part of the benefits of traveling with a major production tour.
“I think the benefits of touring–you immediately get immersed in a new area every week depending on how long the show is in town. You get to meet brand new people. You get to be immersed in different cultures and different areas. I think that’s nice. Being an actor teaches you how to build stamina and how to be able to perform under different climates or elevation levels,” he explained. “For example, in the latter half of this past tour from about September to now, we’ve been in elevated areas. I was in Reno and could barely breathe. It’s just your body learns how to focus and push yourself and to fight through it,” Smith says.
And Dawson is grateful for all the wonderful opportunities “Beautiful” has opened up for him.
“I’m almost 30 years old now so my career is focused on what can I do to sustain myself, to be able to support myself and my family. The last 10 years of my life has been fine because I’ve just been able to travel and see the world and experience all life has to offer. Now, I’m thinking about kids and thinking about marriage.” He admits, he will be leaving the show after Chicago to return to New York City—auditioning and exploring other roles.