A Beautiful Noise, The Neil Diamond Musical
A fan favorite
A Beautiful Noise, The Neil Diamond Musical, opened this past week, with a roar at the box office, and the legendary singer songwriter himself in the audience. Mr. Diamond even sang along from his box seat at the star-studded opening night performance.
The show begins with an excited voice announcing Neil Diamond, as if we are about to see him on stage, bathed in lights poised to sing. Instead, we see an older man in a big chair opposite a psychiatrist sitting in silence, Neil Diamond today. That certainly is an unusual opening to a musical, but we do get to the music soon enough. You see, Neil has gone to see a physician on the insistence of his current wife. He really does not want to be there and has nothing to say. As he gets up to leave, the doctor mentions that she purchased his songbook and uses it as an instrument to entice him to tell his life through the songs he wrote. And the story begins…
Born in Brooklyn, Neil became a songwriter at the age of 15, composing his first song for a heartthrob, who became his wife.
This reluctant superstar, who married three times, had a run in with the mob, and became an international sensation, was really someone who struggled with his self-worth and a depressive personality. Throughout the musical, Neil-then (subtly performed by Mark Jacoby), and the doctor (well played by Linda Powell), go through the songs published in the songbook to unearth his life story…and issues.
We see his music come alive during his early days in the Brill Building with Ellie Greenwich (Bri Sudia) and a troupe of session singers performing Neil’s songs. When one sings Kentucky Woman, Neil steps in to show him how he conceived of that song…And that’s when Ellie tells him he is not giving away his songs to others, but rather he is going to sing them. She describes his voice as “gravel wrapped in velvet.”
As the show continues to unfold, so does Neil’s dark outlook on life. When he meets Marcia (the fabulous Robin Hurder), a singer who challenges him about his unhappiness, chemistry takes place.
The scene shifts to Neil and the Doctor, and he does not want to talk about this part in his life. He is married with a second child on the way.
Throughout, we hear all the chart-busting songs that Neil Diamond wrote and performed; from America to Brooklyn Roads to Cherry, Cherry, and of course the song that gets everyone on their feet, Sweet Caroline.
With the doctor continually pushing Neil to go deeper during their sessions, interspersed with the songs and story, we learn that he can no longer perform, and the doctor asks if he is “okay with that.”
Then, Neil-then and Neil-now come together on stage to sing the song of defiance and acceptance, I Am I Said. It is a very stirring moment.
A Beautiful Noise flows very well. The direction by Michael Mayer is inventive and deftly navigates the telling of the tale through the music.
Neil Swenson plays Neil-then. He transformed his voice to sound like Diamond, using a deep register. Will always has an incredible stage presence and it’s great to see him back on Broadway. The ensemble keeps the musical moving and the ending, of course, is a sing along with a very appreciative audience.
Neil Diamond’s music has been the soundtrack for people of a certain ages’ lives, and we are reminded of that each time the first chords of a Diamond song begins to play during the performance. A Beautiful Noise is an enjoyable show, with book by Anthony McCarten, and choreography by Steven Hoggett.