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Review: A Beautiful Noise at the Broadhurst Theatre

A Beautiful Noise on Broadway (Photo: Julieta Cervantes)

It was only a matter of time before the writer behind songs like "Sweet Caroline," "America," and "Forever in Blue Jeans" had his time in the sun on a Broadway stage. Seemingly inspired and influenced by Bob Gaudio (a familiar name both on and off the stage for theatre audiences, as noted in the playbill's introductory message), Neil Diamond shares his life story with Broadway audiences, from selling songs to other artists to the end of his touring career.

Unlike most jukebox musicals, A Beautiful Noise frames its narrative around a therapy session, in which the now-version of the songwriter immediately declares "this isn't going to work." And yet, it sometimes does. While most bio-musicals opt for a straight-fire representation of an artist's life, this one opts to include interruptions, opinions, and recollections from an old man who is sitting in the discomfort of his past. It's an intriguing premise, probably similar to the experience that Neil Diamond himself had while the production was in development, and invites the audience to experience his life a new perspective, even if most of the audience is probably there to sing along to his hits and have a good time.

The show mainly succeeds through its clever arrangements of Diamond's hit songs – including the ones you may not know he wrote – and the deeply talented cast that sings them. Is it a perfect presentation? Not entirely, but it conveys his life story in a unique way and effectively embraces the talents of its cast to make it a success. The end result is a perfectly enjoyable afternoon in the theatre, complete with an end-of-show (and mid-show) sing along. In particular, Amber Ardolino shines as Marcia Murphy, having replaced original Tony-nominated cast member Robyn Hurder. In her Broadway principal debut, Ardolino proves that she has what it takes to lead a show, and does so with poise, elegance, and the talent that has previously set her apart in the ensemble.

The rest of the cast equally rises to the occasion to present the story of Diamond's life, with solid performances from the two Neils, played by Mark Jacoby as the present version and Alec Michael Ryan as the past version at the performance I attended. The pair present a cohesive and unified portrayal of Diamond throughout his life, though the depiction of his life outside of his career and first two marriages is slightly lacking, only giving the audience insight into his childhood towards the end, as they attempt to make sense of the dark clouds that hover over the younger version of him throughout the show. The final insights, looking at Neil's life as a child with immigrant parents and imaginary friends begins to set up a more sympathetic portrayal of the star, one that would have benefitted from an earlier introduction as we primarily see his two failed marriages and his struggling connection with his children.

Despite this however, A Beautiful Noise does justice to Diamond's music, elevated by a stellar ensemble in sparkly outfits and voices that are aptly referred to in the playbill as being the beautiful noise themselves. It's a unique spin on the jukebox format, and a refreshing one at that. While some might finding the framework off-putting, it is at the very least a new refreshing way of sharing a story. And, at the end of the day, isn't that what we all hope for from the theatre?


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