Boston Pre Broadway Engagement Theater Reviews: 1776 and A Beautiful Noise

I was in Boston for a day so I decided to check out the pre-broadway engagements of these two shows coming to Broadway in the Fall


Official Blurb: They knew they would make history, but not what history would make of them. Fed up with living under the tyranny of British rule, John Adams attempts to persuade his fellow members of the Continental Congress to vote in favor of American Independence and sign the Declaration. But how much is he willing to compromise in the pursuit of freedom? And who does that freedom belong to? Jeffrey L. Page and A.R.T. Terrie and Bradley Bloom Artistic Director Diane Paulus direct a new production of the Tony Award-winning musical, reexamining this pivotal moment in American history with a cast that reflects multiple representations of race, gender, and ethnicity. Following its run at A.R.T., 1776 will play at Roundabout Theatre Company in fall 2022 and begin a national tour in February 2023.

My take: This is interesting because if I’m looking at it as a play or theatrical event it is super exiting and relevant. I was thoroughly engaged and the story was very educational and speaks to our current world. Also I really enjoyed the staging, the all female cast and the juxta positions between modern clothing and classic coats. Also the scene where they suit up shoes and socks was so impactful. Is is a great musical – not really, the songs I did not remember a single one, and they really did not push the story forward that much (how did this win as a musical against Hair? questions there). But as a play with some music which is how im choosing to look at it, it is a great night at the theater an a great educational night at that. My only costume change, love the modern aspects of the underneath clothing but could they be more uniform?

A Beautiful Noise

Official Blurb: The story of the legendary Neil Diamond comes to life on stage in a gripping and uplifting new musical featuring his hit songs “Sweet Caroline”, “America”, and “Cracklin’ Rosie”. Directed by Tony Award® winner Michael Mayer (Spring Awakening, Hedwig and the Angry Inch), choreographed by Olivier Award winner Steven Hoggett (Once, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child), and written by four-time Academy Award® nominee Anthony McCarten (Bohemian Rhapsody, The Two Popes), A Beautiful Noise debuts in Boston before heading to Broadway. Good times never seemed so good.

My take: Jukebox musicals are hard. I especially think biopic musicals are even harder because there is an expectation of chronology in the music that non biopic musicals like mamma mia and & Juliet don’t have. Some are fabulous and some just don’t live up to the hype or the book doesn’t live up to the source music. For me the best jukebox musicals are those that even if I wasnt a fan of the songs before, I would love them coming out and become a new fan. This has happen in quite a few shows for me. For me this isnt the case here. I think this is a musical for Neil Diamond fans. If you are not, it;s good it just is not as powerful. It is a good night in the theatre but there’s a lack of show factor to keep you going. My friend had the best line of the night so Im quoting her directly: I did not like Tina the Musical, but at least it was a killer performance and one hell of a showstopper in proud mary. Here there is no Proud Mary moment. Well here you have one of two. There is no true showstopper. Sweet carolina serves as a wonderful singalong for the end of Act 1 but it lacked impact. As for the rest of his songs none of them compare to that level of impact (I was very surprised to know Im a believer was written by him, and it was one of my favorite parts of the show). As for option 2, the killer performance is covered. Will Swenson is an absolute star (He’s not bad on the eyes either which I cant complain about).

My thoughts on the rest of the cast: We not love Jessie Fisher as Jaye, there was something that just wasn’t connecting and in the words on my wonderful theater companion: I just don’t like her voice. I unfortunately was not able to see Robyn Hurder as Marcia as she was out with COVID, but Paige Faure as her Understudy did an Excellent job! might need to see it in NY again to see Robyn do the Forever in Blue Jeans dance! The ensemble was a mix bag for me. The concept of them being the beautiful noise I kind of loved but it could be controversial, My friend didn’t love it. But my issue was more that the ensemble was very uneven. There were some amazing members, people I just could not take my eyes off and where such strong performers. An then there were some that just looked out of place. Their stage presence and their dancing just left a lot to be desired. For a Broadway bound play and with the insane amount of talent available in NY how does this happen?

As for the staging, it was a clever approach to have a psychologist session be the framing devise for the story. And also the costume change at the beginning was amazing! i need to know how that happened. Costumes were great. But what does need to be commented are the wigs. Can we please fix the wigs before you get to broadway? The 70s and 80s hair situations are always unfortunately, and especially given neil diamonds questionable haircuts throughout the years, but still bad haricuts with bad wigs was very distracting. If not even Will Swenson can pull it off you know there is something wrong.

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