Getting to know Beautiful’s Barry and Cynthia: Ben Fankhauser and Becky Gulsvig
Three years ago, Beautiful – The Carole King Musical had its pre-Broadway world premiere in San Francisco. In celebration, we invited the creative team to return to the place where it all started to talk about the show’s journey. During that time, we had a chance to sit down with the two actors portraying Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil–one of the songwriting duos featured in the hit musical–to not only tell us more about themselves, but also quiz them on how well they knew the characters they were playing (and each other)! Check out “The Not-So Newlywed Game,” below, and keep reading to find out more about Ben Fankhauser and Becky Gulsvig.
Before you were on Broadway, what was the oddest job you’ve ever had?
Becky: I think it’s a tie between a certain New Year’s Eve Party where we had to be living statues … and being the entertainment person at a Bar Mitzvah—blowing up balloons and literally being paid to just dance with the kids. It was super fun, but random.
Ben: I was an assistant videographer for a couple years at the tail end of high school doing weddings, bar mitzvahs, and parties. That was kind of odd.
What is the most embarrassing moment you’ve had on stage?
Ben: In Newsies, we had a tap dance number, and the taps are sort of slippery, so it was easy to bite it and fall on my butt. The two or three times I did that were pretty embarrassing.
What is your most memorable fan encounter?
Becky: Overall, I think I’ve had some great ones, but the most recent, most magical one, was getting the largest hug from Cynthia Weil’s granddaughter. They came to the show when we opened in LA. … Just to see that generation and know that she loved me enough, playing her granny, that she thought I deserved a really big hug was really, really magical.
What was it like meeting Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann for the first time?
Becky: I’d love to say it wasn’t [nerve-wracking], but it was. We hadn’t met them before and … I’ve never played someone real, so I’ve never had to know that they were watching me and hoping that I was doing them justice.
Cynthia: You know, she is the better part of me. Our grandkids were there, and they said, “Granny, you don’t really sing that well.”
What would you, today, tell your younger self when you first started in show business?
Ben: I would probably tell my younger self that the future of my career is going to require a ton of hard work and practice for potentially no reward. There is a lot of preparation that goes into auditioning, performing, and even rehearsing—you just have to do it because you love it and not because you’re going to get anything from it.
Becky: To not be afraid to be yourself. To really try to think of it more as sharing than trying to prove something. And that you’re never going to be done learning—no matter how many jobs you get or shows you nail. You can be unemployed, just like anybody else, the next day, so just live in every moment and learn and take that knowledge to the next job or audition, and treat every little moment as a wonderful part of life.
Don’t miss your chance to catch Ben Fankhauser and Becky Gulsvig in Beautiful – The Carole King Musical, now playing at the SHN Orpheum Theatre through September 18. Visit shnsf.com to buy your tickets today!