Utah native Will Swenson is taking his final bow as Neil Diamond on Broadway. Hear the ‘American Idol’ star replacing him
Utah native Will Swenson originated the role of Neil Diamond in the Broadway production of ‘A Beautiful Noise: The Neil Diamond Musical.’ Now, Swenson is taking his final bow.
As someone who grew up listening to Neil Diamond — and sang the ballad “Play Me” around the campfire in an effort to woo girls during his teenage years — playing the singer on Broadway was a logical career move for Will Swenson.
“I’ve literally over time said to folks, including producers, ‘I’m just waiting for the Neil Diamond musical,’” Swenson previously told Broadway Direct.
Swenson finally got his big moment — and has been relishing it for over a year. The BYU and Cottonwood High graduate, who has performed in Broadway musicals like “110 in the Shade,” “Hair,” “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert,” “Les Miserables” and “Waitress,” originated the role of Diamond in the pre-Broadway and Broadway runs of “A Beautiful Noise: The Neil Diamond Musical.”
But now, the Utah native is getting ready to take his final bow as Diamond. Swenson’s run concludes Oct. 29, Playbill has reported.
“It’s been the thrill of a lifetime to get to stand in Neil’s shoes,” Swenson in a statement, per Playbill. “It’s been such an incredible honor to get to know Neil, to tell his powerful story, and bring his amazing songs to Broadway audiences every night. I’m immensely proud of the moving, beautiful show we made. I will miss it very much.”
Who will replace Will Swenson in ‘A Beautiful Noise’?
Nick Fradiani, the 2015 “American Idol” winner, is Swenson’s alternate and currently plays Diamond for one performance a week. Fradiani will take on the role full time following Swenson’s departure, per New York Theatre Guide.
Fradiani, who also has an attachment to Diamond’s music, will begin the role full time starting Oct. 31.
“Neil Diamond’s music was a huge part of my childhood. I grew up with my father performing his songs, and even taking me to see Neil as my first concert,” he said in a statement, per Playbill. “To have the opportunity to take over the role of Neil Diamond (Then) in ‘A Beautiful Noise’ on Broadway is truly an honor. I have seen firsthand the love, passion, and excitement the audience has brought to our theater over the past year, and I’m so lucky to continue being a part of this beautiful story.”
“A Beautiful Noise” recently released a a video of Fradiani performing “I Am ... I Said.”
What is ‘A Beautiful Noise’ on Broadway about?
“A Beautiful Noise: The Neil Diamond Musical” explores Diamond’s rise to stardom, telling how “a poor Jewish kid from Brooklyn become one of the most universally adored showmen of all time,” per Broadway World. The musical features some of Diamond’s biggest hits, including “Sweet Caroline,” “America,” and “Cracklin’ Rosie,” according to the production’s website.
McCarten got the idea to center the show on a series of Diamond’s therapy sessions from the 1970s — and he reportedly did hours of interviews with Diamond to develop this concept. In the opening scene of “A Beautiful Noise,” Diamond is struggling to make progress in therapy, leading his therapist to pull out his songbook in an effort to encourage him to open up.
“I wanted it to be about something, and Neil, to his great credit, was not afraid to go there,” McCarten told the Boston Globe. “My job is not to flatter. It’s to get to the bottom of something. And Neil was happy for me to ask the questions, and he was nothing but honest in his responses.
“That’s what made him an extraordinary artist,” he continued. “If you examine his songs, even though they were pop tunes, there’s a lot of depth and self-inquiry in them.”
What has Neil Diamond said about ‘A Beautiful Noise’?
In a letter from Diamond, shared on the Broadway musical’s website, the singer reflects on what the production means to him.
The idea of a Broadway musical about my life has always been a daunting one. It wasn’t until the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease prematurely ended my touring career that I started to seriously consider the prospect. I say prematurely because my heart and soul would tour until the day I die if only my body would cooperate.
Sitting in the theater and watching the show has itself been therapeutic: reliving some joyful and some of the painful parts of my life, wishing perhaps that if I could only make a few edits in the script, it would change some of the reality of what I was seeing. But in the end, coming to terms with my life and accepting it has somehow come full circle.
I feel fortunate and full of gratitude for all the people in my life. It is each of them who have impacted and shaped me in their own way to get me to the place where I am now…a better man. A better father. A better husband. A better songwriter.