CELIA IPIOTIS REVIEWS "A BEAUTIFUL NOISE"
New York, New York May 25, 2023 -- It's mind-bending listening to Neil Diamond's songbook because his songs are so much a part of America's musical fabric.
Knocking out song after song, the charismatic Will Swenson embodies Neil Diamond from his early days to the yêars he eclipses Elvis Presley in The Neil Diamond Musical A Beautiful Noise.
Seated in front of a therapist , the old Neil Diamond, a fine Mark Jacoby, revisits his life. Through flashbacks he returns to Flatbush, Brooklyn where this shy young boy feels the dark clouds of loneliness and estrangement crowd his head. That is until he receives a guitar and starts to write songs.
A carousel of Diamond hits keeps audiences happy. Swenson and the rockin' band conducted by Sonny Paladino hold their own against some timid direction by Michale Mayer and choreography by Steven Hoggett. Generally, Mayer is considered one of the more astute theater directors and Hogget typically delivers without effort. Then again, although the story's arc is well structured, but the characters (as written by the critically noted Anthony McCarten) run thin.
After intermission when Diamond, dressed in dazzling outfits by Emilio Sosa, whizzes around the world filling stadiums, the energy lifts. Standout corps members like Aaron James McKenzie, Makai Hernandez and Deandre Sevon fling themselves into club-style hip, torso and arm isolations that look more like dances of their own making.
Mayer does succeed in building from a cool simmer to a boil by the end, in part, because of the strong talents surrounding Swenson. Smartly, Mayer brightens the house lights to encourage the an audience sing-along to some of the better known songs. Of course, that doesn't stop people from singing along -- all night long.
Perhaps the most joyous moments emerge during the bows. Don't dash for the train--two more songs will blast you on your way.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis