'So good, so good': Will Swenson and cast shine in rousing, Broadway-bound Neil Diamond bio-musical

·3 min read

Show: “A Beautiful Noise, The Neil Diamond Musical”

Written by: Anthony McCarten, with music and lyrics by Neil Diamond; directed by Michael Mayer with music supervision and arrangements by Sonny Paladino

What it’s about: This Broadway-bound new musical explores superstar Diamond’s rise to fame and personal highs and lows by using his hits both as concert-style numbers and to tell parts of his story. With an unexpected opening that pulls you right in, the show’s effective framing device has an anchoring Doctor (an empathetic Linda Powell) explore Diamond’s lyrics to get an aged “Neil-Now” (Marc Jacoby) to open up about what went right and what went wrong for the man who was best able to say how he felt with a song.

Will Swenson stars as Neil Diamond in the Boston premiere of the headed-to-Broadway musical "A Beautiful Noise, The Neil Diamond Musical."
Will Swenson stars as Neil Diamond in the Boston premiere of the headed-to-Broadway musical "A Beautiful Noise, The Neil Diamond Musical."

See it or not: Diamond fans will particularly thrill to Broadway star Will Swenson’s uncanny and layered re-creation of Diamond’s speaking and singing voice and style as “Neil-Then” — and his electric renditions of favorites from the guitar-driven “Kentucky Woman” to a stadium-style version of “Brother Love’s Travelling Salvation Show.” How McCarten tells this story, including a welcome dose of humor, and Michael Mayer’s directorial vision (particularly in the use of the ensemble) make this a stronger than usual entry in the crop of jukebox stage musicals.

Highlights of the show: While Swenson winningly channels the Diamond we’ve heard — with top numbers including “Solitary Man,” “Cracklin’ Rosie” and “Holly Holy” — Jacoby provides the emotional heft as the older Neil poignantly trying to work through his regrets for the mistakes he made and the people he hurt. Jessie Fisher as first wife Jaye Posner and Robyn Hurder as second wife Marcia Murphey both impress with their voices and delivery (though Hurder’s character could be more well-rounded if she toned down the sensual moves), and Bri Sudia shines as both wise-cracking producer Ellie Greenwich then fearful mother Rose Diamond.

Fun fact: New Zealand-born writer McCarten has four Academy Award nominations, including for 2018’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” about Queen and lead singer Freddie Mercury. Other bio-pic credits, though, are far from the music world: “The Theory of Everything,” about scientist Stephen Hawking; “The Two Popes,” about Pope Benedict XVI; and “The Darkest Hour,” about Winston Churchill.

Worth noting: From a wow of an opening, the energy and exuberance of the outstanding 10-member ensemble goes far in setting this bio-musical apart. Steven Hoggett’s choreography for the group adds a contemporary spin to the classic songs and fills the stage with emotion.

One more thing: With its Red Sox connection, Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” is, of course, a huge crowd-pleaser and sing-along for a Boston audience, and no other city will likely give Swenson’s rousing rendition quite as huge a reception. The song might not resonate quite as well with New York audiences when the show debuts on Broadway in November, but, really, who can resist a song that is “so good, so good”?

If you go: Through Aug. 7 at the Emerson Colonial Theatre, 106 Boylston St., Boston; https://www.emersoncolonialtheatre.com/

This article originally appeared on Cape Cod Times: Neil Diamond Broadway-bound musical: Will Swenson, cast wow in songs