Tenth in a series of Broadway reports
NEW YORK – Sometimes you buy tickets to a show because of the music; in this case, the songbook focused on the life and times of Neil Diamond. And I love his songs.
So securing tickets to this one, knowing it’s specifically targeted for his fan base— was a risk. I knew this production has been negatively reviewed and snubbed in this year’s Tony Awards.
Still, the show was included in the awards fest, despite its shortcomings, and arguably, the TV exposure fueled more of his followers to continue filling the seats.
So there I was, in the audience of the production.
Will Swenson, as the “then” Neil Diamond, in “A Beautiful Noise.“
Songs aside, this one is no “Jersey Boys,” “Ain’t Too Proud” (the Temptations’ biological musical) or “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical” of seasons past.
Mark Jacob, left, in armchair, is the “now” Diamond, with doctor Linda Powell, right.
Throughout his career, Diamond has been somewhat of a reluctant star, so the book here is the problem – particularly since Diamond’s life is rather dull. And to hook the story with Nei Now (Mark Jacoby), the elderly Diamond, to psychological analysis with a doctor (Linda Powell) — in matching armchairs, no less – was dubious. The talkfast was at the beginning, throughout the middle, and the end of the production and was, simply, tedious.
Call it narration and reflection, boring and disruptive.
Will Swenson, the “then” Diamond, has a soaring voice and fan-worthy swagger to portray the developing singer-composer, from early years in non-descript bluejeans to his glam and glorious primetime, with requisite glitter, sequin and rhinestone flared pantsuits, and Elvis-like posturing, minus the cape.
The “then” Diamond was mainly a solitary man, plagued by insecurity and doubt, as described in one of his hits, with two failed marriages and f a third that finally worked.
Like his peers in his time frame – the aforementioned Carole King included – he had dreams of connecting with the song factory crowd ticking within the fabled Brill Building in New York (I passed the landmark on a Broadway stroll). It’s where Ellie Greenwich’s (Bri Sudia) mentorship gave him confidence to evolve as a major singer-composer-hitmaker to come out of his shell.
Swenson, the “then” Diamond, reaching out as a maturing songsmith.
Remember, Diamond wrote music for others early in his career, including “I’m a Believer” for The Monkees, and he began to be noticed.
His personal strife – like a second marriage that implodes – led to the composition of one of his biggies, “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers,” a personal hit he recorded with Barbra Streisand. It was a distinct demonstration of his maturation as a songsmith.
Jacoby’s matured Diamond has a sparkle, too, for instance on “I Am … I Said.” And he also has a hand (well, voice) in the obvious finale sing-and-cheer-along “Sweet Caroline,” the joyous audience sing-along triumph (“So good, so good, so good” they chime in) and yes, it’s a hearty party moment.
About 30 of Diamond’s signature hits are packed in the soundtrack, from “Song Sung Blue” to “Red, Red Wine,” from “Holly Holy” to “Kentucky. Woman,” from “America” to “Soolamon,” enough to fill a jukebox and fare for diehards to at least hum along to.
So yes, if you go just to reminisce and join in the “Sweet Caroline” chorus, the “Noise” will be immersive. If you don’t mind the tedious narrative moments, you’ll have a good time. …
And that’s Show Biz. …
‘A Beautiful Noise: The Neil Diamond Musical’
“A Beautiful Noise: The Neil Diamond Musical” is a biological production on the life and tunes of pop singer Neil Diamond, with book by Anthony McMcarten and music and lyrics by Neil Diamond. Directed by Michael Mayer, choreographed by Steve Hoggett and musical arrangements by Sonny Paladino.
Playing at the Broadhurst Theatre on Broadway