NEW YORK – A musical about Neil Diamond has found the polished theater gem who will play the icon onstage — Will Swenson.
Swenson has been tapped to lead “A Beautiful Noise, The Neil Diamond Musical” this summer when it makes its debut at Boston’s Emerson Colonial Theatre. Swenson calls it a not straightforward musical. “It’s unconventional and it’s beautiful,” the actor told The Associated Press.
Swenson's Broadway credits include “Waitress” opposite Sara Bareilles, creating the role of Javert in the 2014 revival of “Les Misérables,” and starring in “Priscilla: Queen of the Desert” and “110 in the Shade.”
Diamond, 81, is the singer and songwriter of massive hits like “Sweet Caroline,” “Song Sung Blue” and “Cracklin’ Rosie.” He's also written hits recorded by other artists, such as “I’m a Believer” by the Monkees, “Red Red Wine” by UB40 and “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers” by Barbra Streisand.
The musical has a story by four-time Academy Award-nominee Anthony McCarten ("Bohemian Rhapsody," "Darkest Hour"), direction by Tony-winner Michael Mayer and choreography by four-time Tony-nominee Steven Hoggett. It will play the Emerson Colonial Theatre from June 21-July 31, and tickets go on sale Friday.
Swenson says Diamond was his dad's favorite artist, and he grew up knowing every Diamond song. Swenson's dad went to Diamond concerts and had a signed poster up in the garage. “One of my earliest memories is wearing out the ‘Hot August Night’ eight-track tape,” he says, laughing.
“I never had a music rehearsal because I came in and I knew all the songs by heart, and I’m not even exaggerating,” he said. “I just had it all in my DNA because it was such a part of my upbringing, just constantly on in the car and constantly on at home.”
Swenson has become so adept at singing Diamond that he developed an impression, using it in concert with his wife, Audra McDonald, and at cabarets. So when it was time to play Diamond in front of the man himself, Swenson had an “out-of-body experience.”
“If you want to talk about a surreal moment, try singing 30 Neil Diamond songs while portraying Neil Diamond, 10 feet away from Neil Diamond. It was the most crazy, crazy experience of my life.”
It's fitting that the musical of Diamond will premier in Boston, where Red Sox fans have embraced “Sweet Caroline.” Swenson grew up in California and roots for the Dodgers. “I’m not a Yankee fan, though. So it’s not as harsh,” he said.
Mark Kennedy is at http://twitter.com/KennedyTwits