Created by: Fisher Stevens
Reviewer: Maryam Philpott
The music of the 60s and 70s seems to have a special significance for that generation, and while the famous bands may have gone their separate ways decades ago, tribute performers have become big business for regional venues that pack in crowds eager to celebrate their heroes. Fisher Stevens’ show dedicated to music of Neil Diamond makes a brief pitstop at the Lyric Theatre in London’s West End before resuming its UK tour.
Performing 35 songs including two instrumental medleys, Stevens and his band have a show that is full of value for an audience already primed to love the music. Surprisingly it’s not solely Neil Diamond hits and the show begins with a narrated video stressing the importance of the Brill Building in New York and the songwriters including Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich who wrote there. Cue Stevens performing extracts from Do-Wah-Diddy, Sugar Sugar and River Deep-Mountain High in quick succession offering a bit of context for the emergence of Diamond and the style of music he performs.
Throughout A Beautiful Noise elements of Neil Diamond’s biography are revealed often leading to a particular song choice or to a tangential opportunity to perform songs by other artists including The Monkees’ I’m a Believer(twice) and A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You, The Hollies He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother and Lulu’s The Boat That I Row performed by backing singer Rebecca. In Act Two Stevens is almost upstaged in his own show by his other backing singer Sam whose chill-inducing version of Woman in Love by Barbara Streisand earns a rapturous applause.
Soon the chronology of the show gives way and the early attempt at structure quickly becomes the Neil Diamond hit-factory with every tune a crowd-pleaser – it takes a while to warm-up but soon the audience of devoted fans is in their element. With his sincere and charismatic stage presence Stevens may as well be the real Diamond, the audience is putty in his hands, with a particularly devoted group in the front row determined to dance their way through a lot of the second act not caring a jot that only the seven of them are on their feet.
Stevens’ voice is rich and melodious, full of atmosphere in numbers such as Girl, You’ll Be a Woman Soon and I Am… I Said in which he captures the low trill of Diamond’s delivery as well as the emotive tone of the performance. Equally, in Act Two, the big songs come out including a gorgeous rendition of Hello, Love on the Rocks and You Don’t Bring Me Flowers. The up-tempo songs become increasingly energetic as Stevens’ feeds off the energy in the room and frequently interacting with the audience in Red, Red Wine, Forever in Blue Jeans and the grand finale of Sweet Carolinedelighting the fans who leap to their feet.
There are a couple of duff notes including a cheesy video shuffling stock photos of America almost permanently in the background that feels quite outdated, especially in Soolaimonwith awkwardly generic video of a happy African village while the backing dancers change into Africa-inspired kaftans. Similarly, a heroic video accompanying the glorifying Coming to America with a fluttering flag seems oddly out of place in Trumpian 2019.
A Beautiful Noise mixes the serious and bouncy numbers well, performed by a band that create a pleasing mix of sounds that support the lead vocals nicely. A little modernisation here and there aside, as this 2.5-hour show continues its tour, there’s no doubting the continued affection of audiences for Neil Diamond and for Fisher Stevens who charms the room as effortlessly as his idol.
Reviewed on 11 February 2019 | Image: Contributed