Carole King Checks Out 'Beautiful' (Video)

Carole King

After previously stating that she found the prospect of seeing her life and marriage replayed in the Broadway bio-musical too painful, the singer-songwriter surprised the tearful cast by joining them onstage Thursday night.

NEW YORK – The cast and creative team of Beautiful: The Carole King Musical got the money review they wanted this week -- a rave from the woman whose name is in the title.

While the Broadway musical was developed with Carole King's full cooperation and endorsement, the singer-songwriter said in interviews before it opened that she had no plans to see it, finding the prospect of reliving her early years and her turbulent marriage to former songwriting partner Gerry Goffin too painful.

However, King changed her mind and made a surprise visit Thursday night to the show, which stars Jessie Mueller as the recording artist who evolved from a shy Brooklyn teenager into one of the defining female voices of her generation. During a post-show charity appeal, King joined the emotional cast onstage.

"It was an honor to see Beautiful for the first time last night," said King in a statement. "And I was thrilled to help the cast raise a fast $30,000 for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. Jessie Mueller and company are fantastic, and it was so joyous to be there. I couldn't be more proud."

During designated periods each season, the casts of Broadway shows follow their curtain-call bows with a twice-yearly onstage appeal for donations to the theater community charitable foundation, auctioning off signed posters and other memorabilia. King got the crowd into a giving mood by auctioning an impromptu singalong performance of her hit "You've Got a Friend," accompanied by the entire cast (Watch the video below).

King told the audience that nobody in the cast knew she was coming, calling the show "effing awesome!" Publicists for the musical confirmed that her attendance was kept quiet, with only a half-dozen of the show's producers and press reps in on the secret.

Written by Douglas McGrath and directed by Marc Bruni, Beautiful depicts the emergence in the 1960s of King and Goffin as a legendary pop songwriting team, alongside their best friends and fellow tunesmiths Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil. It opened Jan. 12, earning mixed-to-positive reviews, with unanimous praise for Mueller's performance, placing her among frontrunners for a lead actress Tony nomination in one of this year's most competitive fields.

Driven by strong word of mouth and King's legions of baby boomer fans, the musical is fast becoming a sleeper hit, grossing almost $15 million to date and twice breaking the house record at the Stephen Sondheim Theatre.

The original cast recording was released digitally last week, debuting as the No. 1 cast album on iTunes.