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Broadway’s A Beautiful Noise Tries Hard, Without a Lot of Sing Song Blues to Run With



Neil Diamond’s voice is described as “velvet wrapped in gravel” by the engaging Ellie Greenwich, deliciously embodied by Bri Sudia (Goodman’s Wonderful Town) who is the woman credited with discovering the Diamond, and as projected forward by Will Swenson (CSC’s Assassins), as that sequined star, the jukebox formula for connectivity is strong, but the actualization leaves a lot to be desired. A Beautiful Noise – The Neil Diamond Musical that I’m not sure was ever really needed, has a set-up that feels as heavy and bulky as those two therapy chairs that they keep wheeling around the stage. An older “I don’t like talking about myself‘ Neil Diamond, well portrayed by Mark Jacoby (Broadway’s Ragtime) sits bravely down center stage, fighting hard against the therapeutic investigation led by the engaging no-name therapist, played compassionately by Linda Powell (Broadway’s On Golden Pond). Powell’s role is a thankless one, destined to sit by his side, or across from him, prodding this man to tell her, and us, about his life, music, and lyrics, without ever really having very much to work with. The therapeutic structure is the key to unlocking the box, it seems, as chandeliers drop down from the heavens and the therapy chairs float to the sidelines so we can all engage in the resurrection of the rock star. But is there enough weight to hold it together and drive this memory piece forward? I think not.

Swenson does his grand damnedest, even when weighed down with an unfortunate wig by Luc Verschueren (Broadway’s Almost Famous). Standing upright with a scowl on his face, sounding strong and fluid, just like Diamond, he works hard to give the fans what they want. And the crowd inside Broadway’s Broadhurst Theatre welcomes that sound, clapping and waving their arms in the air as instructed. It’s almost infectious, but the musical, written by Anthony McCarten, who is also responsible for the real-life star-persona collection on display in MTC’s The Collaboration, never rises up in a compelling way. It tries its best to add flavor and conflict to the star’s mystic, following the man who became one of the best-selling musicians of all time, but there isn’t that much to hold on to. It’s a surprise to some of us, (well, to me) that so many care about Diamond’s career. Still, that therapist sure seems to, as she uses an oddball formula of asking about the meanings of songs and their lyrics in the hope of breaking into the psyche of Diamond. And the story is unleashed upon us, like a feather sledgehammer pounding out a beat that doesn’t feel all that urgent.

It’s pleasant enough, and “not awful” as I said when the production finally came to end, even though I forever wanted the therapy angle to roll off into the background, the unwrapping of his career and his life continued onward, like flipping the pages of that heavy book of collected lyrics trying to find purpose and meaning in this tale and some drama in his life. The observing starts to feel distracting, but as Swenson’s Diamond works his way to the centerstage spotlight, we are given the gift of hearing his music presented well and strong, thanks to the music supervision, arrangements, and orchestrations by Sonny Paladino (Broadway’s Gettin’ the Band Back Together). Memories and incidents float in and out on that clunky angular stage designed by David Rockwell (Broadway’s Take Me Out), with ill-fitting glamour costumes by Emilio Sosa (Broadway’s 1776), flashy lighting by Kevin Adams (Broadway’s The Cher Show), and an awkward muffled sound design by Jessica Paz (Broadway’s Hadestown), as the Bitter End beginnings crawl out of the psychic darkness harmoniously towards the superstar spotlight.

First, we have his wife, played dutifully by Jessie Fisher (Broadway’s Harry Potter…), standing strong as his colorless support system, but that soon transitions to the unimaginably sexy Robyn Hurder (Broadway’s Moulin Rouge) as second wife Marcia Murphey. First wife Jaye never stood a chance against Hurder’s Marcia, but the odd thing about A Beautiful Noise is that the show fails Hurder, when it should have embraced the star dancer and performer standing in front of them. She’s forever good in those blue jeans, but the uninspiring choreography given by Steven Hoggett (West End/NT’s Ocean at the End…), rarely gives her more to do than strut her sexy self around the stage to the beat and give a few high kicks, and that, my friend, is disappointing and depressing. There’s no surprise that most of Hoggett’s credits are not so dance-centric, with credited shows running from Broadway’s Angels in America, Harry Potter…, to The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time, but it is depressing that this is what Hurder is gifted to do with that body of her’s. What a waste.

Robyn Hurder and cast in A Beautiful Noise at the Broadhurst Theatre. Photo by Julieta Cervantes.

But depression is the formulaic cornerstone of A Beautiful Noise, and one that supposedly bonds Marcia and Neil together. It’s also the main inner conflict at the heart of this musical. Swenson delicately does manage to bring it to life, as he communicates the struggle, body and soul, but he rarely needs all the psychotherapeutic asides being delivered by the older Diamond and his therapist. The whole team keeps forcing the formula back to that guy, away from the two wolves fighting, but even with the blindingly sparkly white and silver Diamond taking over the stage midway through, the effort isn’t as effective as they had hoped and believed.

Directed by the usually more thoughtful and inventive Michael Mayer (Broadway’s Hedwig; Funny Girl), A Beautiful Noise tries its best to make a grand jewel out of Diamond’s life, one that is filled to the brim with songs that his fans love big-time, but whose life, as it turns out, isn’t really the most interesting part of the man. There is not a lot of fascinating insight in the unpacking of lyrics or the man, even when the details of his rise have some interesting conflict packed inside, like his early record deal with Bert Berns, played by Tom Alan Robbins (Broadway’s Head Over Heels) and the mafia kingpin backer, played by Michael McCormick (Broadway’s Wicked). Yet, the ripping of that threat happens too quickly and easily to have a great impact, and the scene itself is overblown and poorly written. It’s a paint-by-number approach, much like the ending of his two marriages. Some good songs are sung, even when sappy and misplaced, but as a driver, the marriages are treated casually and stereotypically, without much depth or respect.

Writer’s block becomes another mediocre key moment in a string of light key moments, and although that stint in the motel room created one of his biggest hits, the hurdle presented is easily jumped over, and the singer/songwriter keeps running quickly toward the financial win and the forever spotlight. Oddly, the most authentic musical moment is a song that isn’t overdone or processed. It is performed by one of the wasted members of the ensemble – who I must add are never really given a reason for being beyond some pretty bland movement-choreography – who delivers forth an acoustic version of “Shilo” that will make you lean in and pay attention. It felt real, caring, and connected, thanks to the fine work of Deandre Sevon (Encores’ Runaways) and his solid performance of the song. That moment might tell you everything that is wrong with the rest of the show. It’s an unintentional spotlight, that once seen and felt, can’t be undone.

As a whole, A Beautiful Noise fails to grab hold. It tries too hard to give meaning to its bare and lackluster existence. The fans that throw their hands up in the air obviously love the show, greeting it with happy enthusiasm and a sing-along sensibility. But for this theatre junkie, who likes a Neil Diamond song as much as anyone generally does – casually without much excitement – the show is not so memorable. But I could have lived without the attempt to give weight and meaning to this bland story and all that psycho-babble laid on for emphasis. Roll those big chairs away, and let’s just get on with it, if that’s the straight-shooting story you want to tell. The therapy angle isn’t strong enough to hold this together. And if that’s the strongest bond you can find, maybe you should rethink the whole focus of the show. It’s the songs they have all come running for, so just trust in “Sweet Caroline” and that white sequined suit. And let the therapy “Song Sung Blue” be gone.

Will Swenson as young Neil Diamond, Mark Jacoby as older Neil Diamond, and Linda Powell as the Doctor
Will Swenson, Mark Jacoby, and Linda Powell in A Beautiful Noise at the Broadhurst Theatre. Photo by Julieta Cervantes.

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My love for theater started when I first got involved in high school plays and children's theatre in London, Ontario, which led me—much to my mother’s chagrin—to study set design, directing, and arts administration at York University in Toronto. But rather than pursuing theater as a career (I did produce and design a wee bit), I became a self-proclaimed theater junkie and life-long supporter. I am not a writer by trade, but I hope to share my views and feelings about this amazing experience we are so lucky to be able to see here in NYC, and in my many trips to London, Enlgand, Chicago, Toronto, Washington, and beyond. Living in London, England from 1985 to 1986, NYC since 1994, and on my numerous theatrical obsessive trips to England, I've seen as much theater as I can possibly afford. I love seeing plays. I love seeing musicals. If I had to choose between a song or a dance, I'd always pick the song. Dance—especially ballet—is pretty and all, but it doesn’t excite me as, say, Sondheim lyrics. But that being said, the dancing in West Side Story is incredible! As it seems you all love a good list, here's two. FAVORITE MUSICALS (in no particular order): Sweeney Todd with Patti Lupone and Michael Cerveris in 2005. By far, my most favorite theatrical experience to date. Sunday in the Park with George with Jenna Russell (who made me sob hysterically each and every one of the three times I saw that production in England and here in NYC) in 2008 Spring Awakening with Jonathan Groff and Lea Michele in 2007 Hedwig and the Angry Inch (both off-Boadway in 1998 and on Broadway in 2014, with Neal Patrick Harris, but also with Michael C. Hall and John Cameron Mitchell, my first Hedwig and my far), Next To Normal with Alice Ripley (who I wish I had seen in Side Show) in 2009 FAVORITE PLAYS (that’s more difficult—there have been so many and they are all so different): Angels in American, both on Broadway and off Lettice and Lovage with Dame Maggie Smith and Margaret Tyzack in 1987 Who's Afraid of Virginai Woolf with Tracy Letts and Amy Morton in 2012 Almost everything by Alan Ayckbourn, but especially Woman in Mind with Julia McKenzie in 1986 And to round out the five, maybe Proof with Mary Louise Parker in 2000. But ask me on a different day, and I might give you a different list. These are only ten theatre moments that I will remember for years to come, until I don’t have a memory anymore. There are many more that I didn't or couldn't remember, and I hope a tremendous number more to come. Thanks for reading. And remember: read, like, share, retweet, enjoy. For more go to


Broadway’s A Doll’s House Meticulously Stunning Revival Soars Like a Birdie Above That Clumsy Cat on a Hot Tin Roof




For a revival to find its footing, it has to have a point of view or a sense of purpose far beyond an actor’s desire to perform a part, whether it suits them or not. It needs to radiate an idea that will make us want to sit up and pay attention. To feel its need to exist. And on one particular day in March, I was blessed with the opportunity to see not just one grande revival, but two. One was a detailed pulled-apart revolutionary revival of Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House that astounded. The other, unfortunately, was a clumsy revival of Tennessee Williams’ Cat on a Hot Tin Roof that fell lazily from that high-wired peak – not for a lack of trying, but from a formulation that never found its purpose.

Jessica Chastain in A Doll’s House. Courtesy of A Doll’s House.

But over at Broadway’s Hudson Theatre, a reformulation chirps most wisely and wonderfully, bringing depth and focus to a classic Henrik Ibsen (Hedda Gabler) play that I didn’t realize was in such need of an adaptation. With no extravagance at its core, Amy Herzog (Mary Jane) dynamically takes the detailed structure and beautifully adapted it with due purpose. It hypnotizes, dragging in a number of light wooden chairs, Scandinavian in style, I believe, onto the stage, one by one, by their black-clad counterparts in a determined effort to unpack what will unfold. There is no artifice to hide behind in this rendering, as designed most impeccably by scenic and co-costume designer Soutra Gilmour (NT’s My Brilliant Friend; Broadway’s & Juliet) and co-costume designer Enver Chakartash (Broadway’s Is This A Room), only A Doll’s House’s celebrated star, Jessica Chastain (Broadway’s The Heiress; “The Eyes of Tammy Faye“) rotating the expanse of the bare stage before the others join her slowly and deliberately. She sits, arms crossed, staring, daring us to look away, while knowing full well we won’t. Or can’t. And without a word, it feels like she has us exactly where she wants us. Needs us to be. And all that transpires before the play even begins.

They sit on that bare and stark stage, waiting, in a way, to be played with, like dolls patiently wanting some children to come and give them a voice through their imagination. As Nora, Chastain delivers forward a performance that is unparalleled. To witness what transpires across her face during the course of this extra fine adaptation is to engage in a dance so delicately embroidered that we can’t help but be moved and transported. She barely moves from her chair, as others, like the equally wonderful Arian Moayed (Broadway’s The Humans) as Torvald, are rotated in to sit beside her, conversing and delivering magnified lines, thanks to the brilliant work of sound designers Ben & Max Ringham (West End’s Prima Facie), that dig deep into the underbelly of the complicated interactions. This pair of actors find a pathway through the darkness, never letting us come to any conclusions until they are ready to unleash a moment that will leave you breathless. This is particularly true for Moayed’s Torvald, who seems decent enough at the beginning, but once the shift occurs, when the beautiful thing doesn’t happen as it should, his unveiling is as gut-wrenching to us as it is to Nora. Even though we knew it was coming long before the play even began to spin forward.

Arian Moayed, Jesmille Darbouze, Okieriete Onaodowan, Tasha Lawrence, Jessica Chastain, and Michael Patrick Thornton in A Doll’s House. Courtesy of A Doll’s House.

The art of the unfolding is steeped within the whole, refocused inside the brilliant shading, shadowing, and starkness of the cast. As Krogstad, the powerful Okieriete Onaodowan (Broadway’s Hamilton), alongside the deliciously tight Jesmille Darbouze (Broadway’s Kiss Me, Kate) as Kristine, find an engagement that sits perfectly in the structuring. They push the reforming to the edge, approaching and receding away from Chastain’s brilliant centering helping move the piece towards the required conclusion.

The same can be said of the wonderful Tasha Lawrence (LCT’s Pipeline) as Anne-Marie, and the exquisitely emotional turning of Michael Patrick Thornton (Broadway’s Macbeth) as Dr. Rank. Thornton, in particular, finds a telling and emotional space to connect, unearthing an engagement that breaks the circle apart, leaving Chastain’s Nora and all of us observers shattered and broken in its black X’d finality.

As directed with the same magnificently detailed energy and flat-walled framework as the previously seen Betrayal on Broadway and the West End, Jamie Lloyd gives us A Doll’s House that will never be forgotten. The focus is so deliberate, and the formulations are just so strong, pushed forward in black and white by the exacting lighting design of Jon Clark (West End/Broadway’s The Lehman Trilogy). Forced while remaining ever so intimate, the cascading of the statement delivered registers in a precise way, more exacting than I ever remembered, and I’ve seen numerous renditions of this epic play. And even though, from what I hear, many on the left couldn’t see the epic exit of Nora, a moment that typically registers throughout theatre history, the symbol of a woman, steadfast and true, leaving the safe and simple artifice of A Doll’s House for engagement in the hard cruel reality of the world outside is as clear as can be. The delicacies of this birdie trapped inside a cage, poisoned with lies and excuses, and beautifully brought forth by Chastain, registers the reasonings for this revival to exist. It has found a new and deliberate place to sing, and for that, I am truly grateful.

Arian Moayed and Jessica Chastain in A Doll’s House. Courtesy of A Doll’s House
Matt de Rogatis in Ruth Stage’s CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF. Photo by Max Bieber.

I wish I could say the same about Ruth Stage‘s modern take on the Tennessee Williams (A Streetcar Named Desire) classic, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, currently being re-delivered at the Theatre at St. Clements. As directed by Joe Rosario (Hemingway and Me; Ruth Stages’ The Exhibition), the play doesn’t find its rationale for existing in the modern day beyond the simplistic sexualization of its boxing-ring corners. Matt de Rogatis (Austin Pendleton’s Wars of the Roses) as the tense athletic Brick stays broken and damaged in his corner, riding out the moment, waiting for the click, while in the other corner is the tense Maggie, played without hesitation by Courtney Henggeler (Netflix’s “Cobra Kai“) poised and ready for the bell to ring.

The battle is only heightened by the presence of two other fighters in the opposing corners, Big Daddy, played with determination by Frederick Weller (Broadway’s To Kill a Mockingbird) in the third, and Big Mama, played with a strong intent by Alison Fraser (Gingold Theatrical’s Heartbreak House), in the fourth. And watching and cheering for their own personal perspective wins are the obnoxious Mae, typically portrayed by Christine Copley (although I believe I saw an understudy), the weasely Gooper, played by Adam Dodway (Theatre Row’s Small Craft Warnings), Rev. Tooker portrayed by Milton Elliott (Ruth Stage’s Hamlet), and Doc Baugh, typically played by Jim Kempner (“The Girlfriend Experience“) (although, once again, I believe I saw an understudy).

Frederick Weller and Alison Fraser in Ruth Stage’s CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF. Photo by Max Bieber.

Generally, this is a battle that rages deceptively strong and subtle for the length of the play, swimming cruelly in the hazy heat of its Southern charm. But somewhere in this modernization, the reasonings never get fully realized, leaving the cast to wander in their stereotypical delivery without a sharp focal point in the horizon to zero in on. Hidden behind the bar and the drink, de Rogatis finds a Brick to be engaged with. He’s definitely handsome and desirable, especially in the eyes of the far-too-straightforward Henggeler’s Maggie the Cat, and his occupation of drinking rings more true than most. I’m not sure if the modernization has been created to fit his chest-baring delivery of a broken Brick, but I will say that his artful approach to the part is one of the stronger components of this otherwise clunky reimagining.

Given so much to unpack, Henggeler runs a little too fast and furious, not weaving a pause into her thoughts and actions. It’s all forward flowing, ignoring the laws of silence and deliberation. Big Mama and Big Daddy, ignoring the fact that they don’t seem to fit in with their surroundings or the set-up, find their way into the same cage as the two central figure fighters, giving us something else to contemplate in their constructs, beyond their tight fitting jeans and dress. There’s not much of a father/son connection, nor does their familial energy register, even as it moves and twitches within the pauses well. The details of attachment are lost, as they talk around things, with everyone else playing at high volume, courtesy of a sound design by Tomás Correa (Hudson Street’s Adam & Eve), delivering the Southern drawl with the intensity of an SNL skit. That’s a problem to the whole and one that doesn’t work for this rendering.

Courtney Henggeler in Ruth Stage’s CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF. Photo by Max Bieber.

Most of the cast is all hock and no spit, moving around the room with a strange case of physicalized mendacity while never really finding a reason for their existence. The artifice gets in the way of the movement, especially in Matthew Imhoff’s (off-Broadway’s soot and spit) busy and overly clumsy set, with some distracting fading in and out by lighting designer Christian Specht’s (SSTI’s Cabaret). The storm approaching is as false as the formula and the reasoning for this retelling. It showcases some basically good actors embracing the chance to play iconic Big roles that I’m sure they have always wanted to dig their Southern-accented chomps into, possibly because one or two of them might never otherwise get the chance as they don’t exactly fit the literal sashaying of the “fat old” bodies out and around the staging of this play. The idea breeds curiosity, but one that doesn’t save this Cat on a Hot Tin Roof from falling quick and hard from its perch, I’m sad to say. While the birdie in A Doll’s House flies strong out into the cool Broadway air, with solid reasoning on its stark wings, reminding us all what makes for a worthy reimagining of a classic.

Frederick Weller in Ruth Stage’s CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF. Photo by Max Bieber.
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Relevantly Tuneless Fairytale Bad Cinderella Isn’t Bad, It’s Forgettable



You are seriously asking for it, when you make the title for your musical Bad Cinderella, however the show is  not bad, it’s just seriously lacking. For an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, which is normally rich in melody, the only song that has any kind of hold is “Only You, Lonely You” sung by Prince Sebastian (Jordan Dobson or in my performance the wonderful Julio Ray). The lyrics by David Zippel and book by Emerald Fennell, adapted by Alexis Scheer are inane. It doesn’t help that the cast for the most part speaks and sings with mouths full of cotton. The orchestrations sound tinny and computerized, The lead Linedy Genao has no charisma or vocals that soar musically, instead she is rather nasal, like Bernadette Peters with a cold. Why this show is two and a half hours long is beyond me.

Grace McLean and the hunks Photo by Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman

The show is based in a town called Belleville (beautiful town en Francais), that is based solely on looks and prides itself on its superficiality. The opening number starts with “Beauty Is Our Duty,” the Queen (a fabulous Grace McLean) is into her hunks including her missing son Charming (Cameron Loyal).

Christina Acosta Robinson Photo by Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman)

And the fairy godmother (Christina Acosta Robinson) is a plastic surgeon who sings “Beauty Has a Price”. In a day and age, where we are suppose to see past all that, this show is politically incorrect.

Linedy Genao Photo by Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman

Cinderella a Gothic, and a graffiti artist, naturally does not fit into the town’s mold of beauty, which is how she earns her nickname. Her rebel move happens when she defaces a memorial statue of Sebastian’s older brother, Prince Charming. Sebastian is more of a geek, and he and Cinderella are in the “friend zone,” since both lack communication skills in admitting their love.

Carolee Carmello Photo by Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman

Sebastian is being forced by his mother, the Queen to find a wife at a ball and invites Cinderella. Cinderella’s stepmother (the always remarkable Carolee Carmello) blackmails the Queen to get one of her daughters Adele (Sami Gayle) or Marie (Morgan Higgins) the gig.

Grace McLean, Carolee Carmello Photo by Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman)

McLean and Carmello are the bright spots in the show and if the show had been about these two, maybe we would actually have a show that could work. These two steal the show.

Linedy Genao, Jordan Dobson, Photo by Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman

Cinderella has not one, but two what should have been show stopping numbers “I Know I Have A Heart (Because You Broke It)” and “Far Too Late,” but she does not have the vocals, the character development or the star power to carry them off.

The set and the revenge porn costumes by Gabriela Tylesova, are just over the top, with the storybook set faring much better than the over complicated flowered pastels that waltzed across the stage.

The direction by Laurence Connor is just dull and lacks oomph.

If you like buff men and Chippendale type choreography this is the show for you.

Bad Cinderella, Imperial Theatre, 249 West 45th Street.

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Did You Know There Is A Kander & Ebb Way?



On Friday, March 24th, the 96-year-old John Kander was given a Mayoral Proclamation from Mayor Eric Adams in celebration of the first performance of his new Broadway musical New York, New York. Following the proclamation, Lin-Manuel Miranda unveiled the sign renaming 44th Steet ‘Kander & Ebb Way. On hand was the Manhattan School of Music to performed the iconic Kander & Ebb song “New York, New York.”

New York, New York opens Wednesday, April 26, 2023 at Broadway’s St. James Theatre (246 West 44th Street).


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