Neil Diamond pulls back the curtain on his catalog of hits for ‘A Beautiful Noise’

Neil Diamond pulls back the curtain on his catalog of hits for ‘A Beautiful Noise’
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Biographical musicals have a pretty unbreakable formula. The first step is to look at the artist’s hits and then pair them with key moments in the performer’s career. From there, it all sort of… works itself out.

At best, the untold story is so dynamic it surprises, like 2006’s Jersey Boys, the only one of the genre ever to nab a Tony Award for Best Musical. Perhaps there is an actor who elevates the material above the predictable, dramatic beats. (Think Adrienne Warn in Myles Frost Stephanie J. Block The Cher Show , Jessie Mueller at Beautiful – The Carole King Musical ).

At its worst, it can feel like Wikipedia. The Musical . A Beautiful Noise The Neil Diamond musical that opened Sunday at New York’s Broadhurst Theatre, unfortunately tends to be closer to the former than the former. But like Diamond’s 1969 hit “Sweet Caroline,” the infectiousness of the overall experience trumps the air of cheese to it and will have audiences cheering “so good, so good, so good” by the show’s end.

A Beautiful Noise: The Neil Diamond Musical

Will Swenson as ‘Neil Diamond’ in ‘A Beautiful Noise: The Neil Diamond Musical’

| Credit: Julieta Cervantes

Much of that is thanks to the diverse ensemble, including standouts Tatiana Lofton and Jess LeProtto, who all bring a burst of undeniable energy to each of choreographer Steven Hoggett’s moves that’s impossible to resist. Paired with Diamond’s catalog of hits like “Crunchy Granola Suite,” “Cracklin Rosie,” “Song Sung Blue,” “Cherry, Cherry” — and even those songs he wrote for other artists, like “I’m a Believer,” the 1966 No. The Monkees have released 1 single — the musical numbers are so joyful, they’re guaranteed lift you up.

Where the show sometimes stumbles is in the book scenes. These are centered around a gruff, current-day Diamond (played in Mark Jacoby), who reluctantly examines his songbook in a series therapy sessions. As his doctor (the earnest Linda Powell) pushes Diamond to reveal the deeper meaning behind his lyrics, a younger Diamond (this time portrayed by Will Swenson) brings those moments to life, with Jacoby and Powell looking on from the sidelines.

It’s a smart, artful concept, and one Diamond himself praised book writer Anthony McCarten for proposing during the development process. The Grammy winner writes in the show’s Playbill: “Sitting in the theater and watching the show has itself been therapeutic; reliving some joyful and some of the painful parts of my life, wishing perhaps that if I could only make a few edits to the script, it would change some of the reality of what I was seeing. In the end, I came to terms with my life and accepted it. I feel blessed and grateful for the people in my life. Each of them has influenced me and shaped me in my own way, helping me to be the man I am today… a better man. A better father. A better husband. A better songwriter.”

That’s a touching revelation, and one that holds even more weight when you consider that Diamond’s long-standing performance career has been drastically slowed by the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, a diagnosis he announced in January 2018, shortly after the completion of this 50th anniversary world tour. While Diamond may have gained personal insight through the storytelling, audiences might be looking for more. McCarten’s words sometimes fail to penetrate the musician’s mind as much as the surface.

A Beautiful Noise: The Neil Diamond Musical

Robyn Hurder as Marcia Murphey and Will Swenson as Neil Diamond in ‘A Beautiful Noise’

| Credit: Julieta Cervantes

Take the women in Diamond’s life, for example. Jay Posner (Jessie Fisher), and Marcia Murphey Moulin Rouge breakthrough Robyn Hürder are presented as supportive, loving spouses who live in isolation while Diamond works. Diamond finds it difficult to share his feelings about his treatment of his wife. This makes it difficult for him to communicate his emotions and poetry to his audience. Similar limitations are placed on Diamond’s ability to recall pivotal moments in his life, such as when he signed a deal with a mob run record company. We get a portrait of the pressure he was under to deliver, but not any insight into learnings of what moments like that in life taught Diamond, with McCarten and director Michael Mayer (Spring Awakening, American Idiot, Funny Girl) instead breezing through any internal vulnerability in favor of another zestful performance of one of Diamond’s 40 top 40 hits.

Which… sure. This musical is long and covers a lot of ground. The show itself clocks in at two hours and 15 minutes and features 29 of Diamond’s songs including “Shilo,” “America,” “Kentucky Woman,” and “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers” — one might think, “How much more time do we need to spend talking here?” The show’s final, pivotal book scene is a great example of A Beautiful Noi . Diamond, sitting with his therapist, finally shares his inability to tour anymore. This puts into perspective why these therapy sessions are so important to him now. He says he doesn’t want repeat the mistakes he made with his third wife. It’s a powerful scene. It’s just too bad McCarten didn’t give us more.

A Beautiful Noise: The Neil Diamond Musical

Mark Jacoby as Neil Diamond in ‘A Beautiful Noise’

| Credit: Julieta Cervantes

All this to say, this critic doubts audiences will notice those failings, or even care. A Beauty Noise attendees want to be entertained. Swenson, in particular, sounds nearly identical to Diamond in his raspy vocals, as does Jacoby, who gets his turn at the mic in the musical’s emotional 11 o’clock number, “I Am… I Said” (and the predictable curtain call singalong of “Sweet Caroline”). These two strong, grounded performances not only anchor the show, but should also be a major draw for awards season.

Hurder shines in her performance “Forever in Blue Jeans”, giving full “Music in the Mirror”, as she dances to the Diamond hit. Although it feels a little out of place, it is tailored to Hurder’s talents more than the character’s, but she sells the hell out of it.

A Beautiful Noise was produced by Ken Davenport (of the Four Seasons fame), who also worked on Jersey Boys .. It very well might be a long-running hit like that musical, especially considering Diamond’s popularity (he’s sold over 120 million albums in his career, as is mentioned in the show). It’s too bad that you want more. B

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