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Review | On Broadway, Neil Diamond seems a drag and ‘KPOP’ needs a rethink


NEW YORK — Let journals of psychology report that the newest jukebox musical on Broadway is unveiling a revolutionary new offshoot of psychoanalysis: name it hit-song remedy. The healing impact appears to happen most efficiently when the platinum-album numbers are composed by the affected person, and much more optimally when the particular person on the sofa is megastar Neil Diamond.

The present exploring this novel remedy modality places the storied singer-songwriter actually within the psychiatrist’s workplace. Its title is “A Lovely Noise,” subtitled “The Neil Diamond Musical,” and it marked its official opening Sunday night time on the Broadhurst Theatre, in a manufacturing that without delay manages to be each glittery and gloomy.

The glitter comes within the type of the gazillion sequins adorning Emilio Sosa’s costumes for the musical’s number-one attraction: the charismatic Will Swenson, who performs Diamond in his ascendancy and manages to sound uncannily like the person who’s bought greater than 130 million information. The gloom originates within the tortured-artist disappointment that hangs over Diamond into outdated age, as personified by Mark Jacoby, who sits in a chair for a lot of the present reverse Linda Powell, taking part in the Physician.

The psychiatrist proposes going by an enormous printed quantity of his lyrics that features “Holly Holy,” “Love on the Rocks” and, after all, “Candy Caroline” as a therapeutic device. And although “A Lovely Noise” hits on a through-line of torment in his songbook, the framing of the present as a tour of Diamond’s seeming melancholy is inevitably dreary.

One empathizes with the problem of discovering a brand new narrative hook within the crowded field of jukebox musicals. However the joylessness of Diamond’s persona, as detailed by the musical’s ebook author, Anthony McCracken, exists in a discomfiting, static counterpoint to the dynamism of his music. Diamond comes throughout as so solipsistic that when the inevitable breakthrough happens late within the proceedings between him and his physician, there’s no attendant epiphany for the viewers.

Evidently (in all probability), individuals who grew up and older loving Diamond’s albums and live shows will probably be completely happy sufficient simply experiencing the 29 numbers rolled out by director Michael Mayer and choreographed by Steven Hoggett. Set designer David Rockwell devises tall, sliding platforms containing what appear to be the strings of a harp or a guitar; they’re lighted by Kevin Adams in sprightly main colours that belie the offstage Diamond’s monochrome temper.

At occasions, too, the manufacturing turns up the home lights to encourage spectators to sing together with numbers they know by coronary heart. Different songs are handed over to supporting characters within the Diamond biography, most notably his finally disaffected first and second wives, Jaye (Jessie Fisher) and Marcia (Robyn Hurder); his current spouse, Katie, is talked about solely in a self-serving coda recited by Jacoby.

Hoggett stakes out for Hurder an explosive dance sequence, nevertheless it’s Swenson with the workhorse position right here, and “A Lovely Noise” is fortunate to have him. It’s been a standout yr for Swenson, after a magnetically energetic efficiency as hyper-delusional Charles Guiteau in an off-Broadway revival of Stephen Sondheim and John Weidman’s “Assassins.” Taking part in Diamond, Swenson downshifts right into a extra brooding gear. With out him, the oddly leaden “A Lovely Noise” would actually be singing the blues.

Proof of the universes of musical theater and pop leisure crashing into one another ever extra resoundingly will also be discovered at Broadway’s Circle within the Sq. Theatre, the place the long-gestating “KPOP” has formally opened. The concert-style present, about South Korean pop teams and the rise of a famous person, portrayed potently by South Korean singer-actress Luna, was imagined to have made a pre-Broadway stop at the Anthem on the D.C. Wharf. That engagement final December was canceled by its producers due to the pandemic. Which is a disgrace, as a result of the musical, initially developed off-Broadway at Ars Nova, might use dramaturgical refinement.

The music by Helen Park for the rising fictional teams, RTMIS (pronounced “Artemis”) and F8 (“Destiny”) pulsates exuberantly, and it’s enjoyable to soak up this contribution to the Ok-pop cultural motion. (Jennifer Weber’s choreography brims with youthful élan.) However an episodic story involving 13 members of the 2 teams; a domineering producer (Jully Lee) who’s additionally an ex-star; an aggressive documentary crew (Aubie Merrylees and Main Curda) and the origin story of a brand new star, Luna’s MwE, overinflate the narrative.

As with “A Lovely Noise,” you sense in “KPOP” the battle to position pop-concert efficiency in a novel framework; “KPOP” was conceived as an immersive viewers expertise that was later remade for normal theater seating. The want is that director Teddy Bergman and ebook author Jason Kim might have streamlined a number of the drained showbiz tropes and targeting what “KPOP” does greatest: sing and dance.

A Lovely Noise, The Neil Diamond Musical, music and lyrics by Neil Diamond, ebook by Anthony McCarten. Directed by Michael Mayer. Choreography, Steven Hoggett; music supervision, Sonny Paladino; units, David Rockwell; costumes, Emilio Sosa; lighting, Kevin Adams; sound, Jessica Paz. With Jessie Fisher, Michael McCormick, Bri Sudia, Tom Alan Robbins. About 2½ hours. At Broadhurst Theatre, 235 W. forty fourth St., New York.

KPOP, music and lyrics by Helen Park and Max Vernon, ebook by Jason Kim. Directed by Teddy Bergman. Choreography, Jennifer Weber; units, Gabriel Hainer Evansohn; costumes, Clint Ramos and Sophia Choi; lighting, Jiyoun Chang; sound, Peter Fitzgerald and Andrew Keister; projections, Peter Nigrini. With Jinwoo Jung, Zachary Noah Piser. About 2 hours quarter-hour. At Circle within the Sq. Theatre, 235 W. fiftieth St., New York.

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