Shocking News: Neil Diamond got the shocking of his life…….

Review of A Beautiful Noise: Neil Diamond opens up his hit catalog for the upcoming Broadway production
By now, biographical musicals have developed a nearly infallible formula. Beginning with the artist’s catalog of hits, you can match them with significant times in the artist’s career, and the rest just kind of falls into place.

The untold story is, at best, so dynamic that it surprises, much like Jersey Boys (2006), the only musical in its genre to ever win a Tony Award for Best Musical. Alternatively, the lead role could be inhabited by an actor who takes the material above and beyond the formulaic, dramatic beats (think Myles Frost in MJ, Adrienne Warren in Tina, Stephanie J. Block in The Cher Show, and Jessie Mueller in Beautiful:

In the worst case scenario, you might end up with Wikipedia: The Musical.

Sadly, A Beautiful Noise, the Neil Diamond biomusical that debuted on Sunday at New York City’s Broadhurst Theatre, occasionally veers more toward the latter than the former. Similar to Diamond’s 1969 hit song “Sweet Caroline,” the audience will be cheering “so good, so good, so good” by the end of the show because of how infectious the entire experience is, despite the air of cheese.
In “A Beautiful Noise: The Neil Diamond Musical,” Julieta Cervantes Will Swenson plays “Neil Diamond.”

The diverse group, especially Tatiana Lofton and Jess LeProtto, who each bring an irresistible burst of energy to every move choreographed by Steven Hoggett, is largely responsible for that. The musical numbers are so upbeat that they are sure to cheer you up, especially when paired with Diamond’s catalog of hits like “Crunchy Granola Suite,” “Cracklin Rosie,” “Song Sung Blue,” and “Cherry, Cherry” — and even those songs he wrote for other artists, like “I’m a Believer,” the 1966 No. 1 single for the Monkees.

The book scenes, which revolve around a stern, modern-day Diamond (played by Mark Jacoby) reluctantly going through his songbook in a series of therapy sessions, are where the show occasionally falters. A younger Diamond (played by Will Swenson) brings those moments to life, while Jacoby and Powell watch from the sidelines. Diamond is prompted by his doctor (the sincere Linda Powell) to reveal the deeper meaning behind his lyrics.

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. But in the end, coming to terms with my life and accepting it has somehow come full circle. I feel fortunate and full of gratitude for all the people in my life. It is each of them who have impacted and shaped me in their own way to get me to the place where I am now… a better man. A better father. A better husband. A better songwriter.”

That is a heartwarming discovery, and it becomes even more significant when you realize that Diamond has long suffered from Parkinson’s disease, which he disclosed in January 2018, not long after this 50th anniversary world tour concluded. The symptoms of the disease have severely slowed down Diamond’s long-standing performing career. Although Diamond might have gained personal understanding from the narrative, listeners may have been hoping for a little more because McCarten’s remarks frequently stop short of going beyond the surface and into the musician’s thoughts.

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

Take the women in Diamond’s life, for example. First wife Jay Posner (Jessie Fisher) and second wife Marcia Murphey (Moulin Rouge breakthrough Robyn Hurder) are both presented, essentially, as the same supportive, loving spouses who suffer in loneliness as Diamond devotes himself to his craft. Challenged to open up about the feelings he has over his treatment of them, Diamond isn’t able to translate the emotions and poetry he puts into his lyrics into anything other than dismissive regret, a disservice to audiences who then fail to see these women as anything more than trite characters living for a man’s love.

Similar limits are placed upon Diamond’s recollection of pivotal moments in his career, like when he signs 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 AwakeningAmerican IdiotFunny 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 is a musical, after all, and one with a lot of ground to cover. 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?” But take the final, pivotal book scene in the show as proof of what A Beautiful Noise could be. Sitting with his therapist, Diamond finally opens up about his inability to tour anymore, putting into clear perspective why these therapy sessions have mattered so much to him now. He shares that he doesn’t want to make the same mistakes he has in the past with his now third wife, as he’s forced to face the realities of a life away from the stage. It’s a deeply effective scene; it’s just a shame McCarten didn’t give us more moments like that one.

Julieta Cervantes Mark Jacoby as Neil Diamond in ‘A Beautiful Noise’

All this to say, this critic doubts audiences will notice those failings, or even care. Those going to A Beautiful Noise want to be entertained and entertained they will be. 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”). They’re two solid, grounded performances that not only anchor the show but should also channel eyeballs come awards season.

Hurder especially shines in her performance of “Forever in Blue Jeans,” giving full “Music in the Mirror” as she disappears in dance to the Diamond hit. It feels a bit out of place, tailored for more of Hurder’s talents than the character’s needs, but damn if she doesn’t sell the heck out of it.

A Beautiful Noise is produced by Ken Davenport and Bob Gaudio of the Four Seasons fame, who 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 just too bad it leaves you wanting more.


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