Lines in the Dust and Beautiful: The Carole King Musical

Beverly and Denitra hope to evade the prying eyes of P.I. Michael DiMaggio in Lines in the Dust. (L-R) Kelly Jenrette, Tony Pasqualini, and Erica Tazal. (Photo credit: Cristian Kreckler)

By Shari Barrett

Collaborative Artists Bloc and Support Black Theatre are presenting the West Coast premiere of LINES IN THE DUST, written by Nikkole Salter and directed by Desean K. Terry at The Matrix Theatre through December 10. The three-person play is a beautifully written contemporary narrative about the injustice of a public school system where the quality of your children’s education can depend solely on your street address. 

Originally commissioned by Luna Stage to commemorate the anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education, the 1954 Supreme Court ruling that was intended to end segregation in public schools nationwide. The title of the play comes from Alabama Governor George Wallace’s infamous 1963 inaugural address in which he proclaimed, “I draw the line in the dust…and I say segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever!”

The cast features Emmy nominated Kelly Jenrette and Ovation and NAACP Award winner Erica Tazel alternating in the roles of Beverly, a charter high school principal, and Denita, a Newark mother determined to get the best education for her daughter. The two women, both mothers of school-age children, unexpectantly meet at an open house in the upscale town of Millburn, New Jersey. As they get to know each other, the two find they are connected through Denita’s daughter who is a student at Millburn High School where Beverly is the principal. But soon, under the watchful eye of Newark private investigator Michael DiMaggio (Tony Pasqualini, who channels characters from The Sopranos to a tee) who hopes to catch Denita in a fraud residency claim so her daughter can get a “good” education at Millburn High rather than at the much-maligned Newark High, the women’s lives are forced into a roller coaster ride to keep the status quo.

When the truth is uncovered and Denitra loses the charter school lottery for her daughter, she must find another way to escape from their underperforming Newark neighborhood school. The answer seems like a risk worth taking, according to Beverly, but it may end up requiring a bigger sacrifice than Denita ever could have imagined and cost Beverly her well-earned position as principal. Their struggle explores how far we’ve come for equal education opportunities, and how much farther there is to go.

The talented actresses switch off playing Beverly and Denita, a brilliant decision made by director Desean K. Terryas since it allows a thoroughly complete, down to the bone character understanding of the intentions of both characters for each actor. At the performance I attended, Jenrette portrayed Beverly and Tazel was Denita, with both taking on delving into the hearts and souls of these two, hard-driven women in crystal clear reality to the point of combustion. Kudos to Pasqualini for holding his own against these two powerhouse performers, raising his own portrayal to equal, emotional heights. I encourage everyone to go see this expertly written, directed and staged play with a cast of 3 who will blow you away with their authentic character portrayals amid exploding emotions over the ongoing battle for the right to give your child a good education at the school of your choice, not just by your street address.

Lines in the Dust runs Thursdays at 8pm, Fridays at 8:30 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m., Sunday at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. through December 10, 2023 at the Matrix Theatre, 7657 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles 90046. Tickets are $55 for general admission with discounts for groups, students, seniors (with ID). Reservations: or (310) 619-6322. Run time is approximately 1 hour and 40 minutes with no intermission. And trust me, the time flies by at lightning speed!

After the break-up of her marriage and decision to move to Los Angeles, Carole King shares her latest song “You’ve Got a Friend” with her music producer Don Kirshner and fellow songwriters Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil. (L-R) Brian Ibsen, Trevor James, Sara King and Sara Sheperd in BEAUTIFUL: The Carole King Musical. (Photo credit: Jason Niedle/Tethos)

BEAUTIFUL: THE CAROLE KING MUSICAL follows the inspiring true story of her remarkable rise to stardom, from being part of a hit songwriting team with her husband Gerry Goffin to becoming one of the most successful solo acts in popular music history. From her teenage years in Brooklyn writing music to her ultimate stardom performing her own songs, Sara Sheperd brilliantly channels the multi-award-winning singer/songwriter Carole King to a tee. We get a glimpse into her career from the moment she meets teenage heartthrob Gerry Goffin (tall and handsome Miles Jacoby) whose lyrics about love paired with her music lead the two to dropping any other career plans and becoming a hit songwriting duo. 

But first they must learn to deal with becoming teenage parents, which later pulls them apart when his eye wanders to the many beautiful singers they meet while writing songs for Don Kirshner. But when Carole finally knows she is done trying to make the marriage work, her decision to move to Los Angeles and settle in Laurel Canyon lifts her career as a solo singer/songwriter to international stardom.

Along the way, included are songs she wrote that became the soundtrack of a generation, with countless classics performed by others during the 1960s, including “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman,” “Take Good Care of My Baby,” “You’ve Got a Friend,” “So Far Away,” “It Might as Well Rain Until September,” “Up on the Roof,” and “The Locomotion,” along with several Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil hits, all superbly performed by ensemble members in splashy costumes designed by Alejo Vietti with hair and wigs designed by Kaitlin Yagen, performed on an double-level movable scenic design by Derek McLane, lit to perfection by Ethan Steimel.  

The smash Broadway hit BEAUTIFUL: The Carole King Musical features a book by Douglas McGrath with words and music by Gerry Goffin, Carole King, Barry Mann, and Cynthia Weil; music by arrangement with Sony/ATV Music Publishing; orchestrations, vocal, and music arrangements by Steve Sidwell; with musical direction by Ryan O’Connell; choreography and associate direction by Joyce Chittick; and memory-inducing direction by David Ruttura (based on the original Broadway direction by Marc Bruni and original Broadway choreography by Josh Prince).

Presented by McCoy Rigby Entertainment at the La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts on Thursdays at 7:30 p.m.; Fridays at 8 p.m.; Saturdays at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sundays at 1:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. through Sunday, December 3, 2023, with an added performance on Wednesday, November 22 at 7:30 p.m. and no performance on Thanksgiving, Thursday, November 23. There will be an Open-Captioned performance on Saturday, November 25 at 2 p.m., with talkbacks with the cast and creative team on Thursday, November 16 at 7:30 p.m. and Thursday, November 30 at 7:30 p.m.

Tickets range from $19 – $90 (prices subject to change) and can be purchased at La Mirada Theatre’s website or by calling the La Mirada Theatre Box Office at (562) 944-9801 or (714) 994-6310.  Group and military discounts are available and $14 student tickets. Children under 3 will not be admitted into La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts, located at 14900 La Mirada Blvd. in La Mirada. Onsite parking is free.