Carole King's first visit to the musical about her life, "Beautiful," on Thursday was a surprise for the audience and the cast. But her attendance proved to be valuable in a completely other way: From the stage, King and cast auctioned off a performance of her song, "You've Got a Friend," and spontaneously raised $30,000 for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.
According to The New York Times, King told the crowd that the cast "had no idea" she was in the audience. She had been reluctant to see the musical, she said previously, because it tells the story of her recording of 1971's "Tapestry," which was a difficult time in her life.
King's daughter Sherry Kondor told Playbill that her mom had come to a reading of the musical and "lasted halfway through. ... She said, 'I have to go.' I said, 'You're just going? What do I tell all these people?' She said, 'Tell them it's great. I can tell it's great. But I can't watch my life played out before me.'"
But something must have changed her mind as she watched the show from the audience on April 3, and then joined the cast onstage as they made their annual appeal for the charity. She then led the cast with the auctioned-off performance of "You've Got a Friend."
In a video shown on TODAY Friday, she admitted from the stage, "I've been working up to coming."
"Beautiful's" Twitter account posted a photo of King onstage with the cast later that night, which the star retweeted.
King said in a statement that it was an honor to see the show for the first time and help the cast raise the funds. She noted, "(Star) Jessie Mueller and company are fantastic, and it was so joyous to be there. I couldn't be more proud."
"Beautiful: The Carole King Musical" is now playing at the Stephen Sondheim Theatre in New York.