Mark Jacoby Finds Neil Diamond's Magic in 'A Beautiful Noise'

by Steve Duffy

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Tuesday June 21, 2022

Mark Jacoby and cast members in a rehearsal photo for "A Beautiful Noise"
Mark Jacoby and cast members in a rehearsal photo for "A Beautiful Noise"  (Source:Jenny Anderson)

Mark Jacoby's long career in the theater had him playing such roles as Gaylord Ravenal in Harold Prince's reimagining of "Show Boat" (for which he got a Tony nomination), the Wizard in "Wicked," Sweeney Todd in "Sweeney Todd," Tevye in "Fiddler on the Roof," Guido in "Nine," and the Phantom in "The Phantom of the Opera" on Broadway for three years. He also originated roles in "Ragtime" and "ELF."

But he's not active just in theater; Jacoby has appeared in television and films as well. Like most New York actors, he appeared on "Law and Order" and "Law and Order: SUV," as well as "Madam Secretary," "The Blacklist," "The Good Fight," and "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel."

Next up for Jacoby is to play present-day Neil Diamond in the upcoming Broadway musical "A Beautiful Noise: the Neil Diamond Musical" in Boston. The show runs through July 31, with a scheduled Broadway run in December.

Will Swenson and cast members of "A Beautiful Noise"
Will Swenson and cast members of "A Beautiful Noise"  (Source: Jenny Anderson)

It will take two actors to encompass Diamond's long career, with Tony-nominated Will Swenson playing his younger version. The musical will have Jacoby's Diamond recalling his long career while in therapy at a point in his career when he cannot sing. Diamond is a consultant on the show, which has a book by Anthony McCarten ("Bohemian Rhapsody"), direction by Michael Mayer ("Spring Awakening"), and choreography by Steven Hoggett ("Harry Potter and the Cursed Child").

The Brooklyn-born Diamond received his first guitar at 16 and hasn't looked back. His first hits in the mid-1960s — "Cherry, Cherry" and "A Solitary Man" — introduced his dynamic performance style and songwriting skills to the public. He wrote hits for The Monkees (including "I'm a Believer"), while opening for The Who and Herman's Hermits. After moving to LA in 1969, Diamond wrote and recorded his iconic hits "Sweet Caroline," "Song, Sung Blue," and "Holly Holy." In the early 1990s, he was one of the first pop performers to perform on Broadway. At the time, the New York Times raved: "Neil Diamond's one-man show seemed, on the face of it, to be a brash idea. One-man shows have traditionally been associated with talents like Judy Garland and Danny Kaye. But Mr. Diamond is clearly a brash young man and one with both the musical track record and the performance macho to bring it off... He needn't worry about comparisons with the likes of Garland and Kaye."

EDGE spoke with Jacoby about how he got cast as Diamond, how Diamond's music speaks to him, and whether he feels any pressure opening a show in Boston, where "Sweet Caroline," thanks to the Red Sox, is the city's anthem.

Mark Jacoby as The Father in "Ragtime'
Mark Jacoby as The Father in "Ragtime'  

EDGE: What inspired you to pursue a career in theater?

Mark Jacoby: I wasn't one of these people who had a dream, identified the dream early, or pursued the dream. My working in theater was primarily the result of something that I could do that seemed marketable. I was a singer more than I was anything else. It was a way for me to work and get paid — that is what got me on the stage. Over time, I developed more interest in the acting values than I was in singing. I really just followed the path of least resistance.

EDGE: What show was your Broadway debut?

Mark Jacoby: It was "Sweet Charity" back in 1986, and starred Debbie Allen. I played Vittorio Vidal, the Italian movie star, that she encounters. She winds up in my apartment. As debuts go, I think that a pretty good one.

EDGE: You have already had some dream roles, but do you have a favorite?

Mark Jacoby: Even though I am a singer, I was never a very confident one. My favorite roles tend to be ones that did not involve a lot of difficult singing. For example, I did "Show Boat" and "Phantom of the Opera," and those both felt like big responsibilities. Most performers just can't get wait to get out there and show what they can do, but I was afraid of getting out there and showing what I can't do. The last show I did on Broadway was the musical version of "ELF." I enjoyed that so much, because it wasn't demanding and [it was] fun to do.

Mark Jacoby and Linda Powell in a rehearsal photo for "A Beautiful Noise"
Mark Jacoby and Linda Powell in a rehearsal photo for "A Beautiful Noise"  

EDGE: What excites you about storytelling on stage?

Mark Jacoby: You get to tell the story in real time. I like the fact that theater pieces are presented from beginning, middle, and end, with a few songs thrown in the mix of it all. Acting out the narrative of the story on stage feels very primal to me. It's a very human thing, and a wonderful experience to get to do.

EDGE: What appealed to you about this musical?

Mark Jacoby: To be honest, I got the part. I wasn't thinking, "I need to do a piece about Neil Diamond." I got an audition and got cast. That sounds boring, I know. All I can say to make it sound better is it was great to go through his songbook and listen to these amazing songs. I knew a lot of the songs because it was my era. I have always liked his music, and I'm glad to be a part of this. Plus, there's not a lot of work for people my age, because everything is youth-oriented, so I am happy to be working.

EDGE: Which Neil Diamond song do you relate to most?

Mark Jacoby: It's impossible for me not to say "I Am... I Said," because that becomes a big focal point for my character. My character, Neil - Now, is in therapy, and he's working through the fact that his he can't really perform anymore. The song is most telling about him and representative of him where he is in his life now. He doesn't want to discuss it, because it's so personal and so painful, and he feels it reveals too much of who he is. That's the song that means the most to me. I don't have to tell you just how wonderful his music is. He was so prolific. He is just phenomenal.

Mark Jacoby and cast members in a rehearsal photo for "A Beautiful Noise"
Mark Jacoby and cast members in a rehearsal photo for "A Beautiful Noise"  (Source: Jenny Anderson)

EDGE: How did you go about capturing the essence of who Neil Diamond is?

Mark Jacoby: The great thing is that he is here regularly at rehearsal, so there is some access to him. Also, I spent a lot of time watching interviews and clips of his performance. His shows were spectacular, and very extravagant. He began as a self-contained performer. There was no glitter. There were no sequins. He kept it simple. He became one of these spectacular performers throughout his life, and that's interesting to me.

EDGE: Do you see any of yourself in Neil?  

Mark Jacoby: I see myself, at [the place where] I am in my life, that every aging person sees themselves [in]. I should maybe not be afraid, but, like every older person, we all have to confront our declining abilities. We all decline; it's just inevitable. That is what's happening in Neil's life right now — he can't perform anymore. He has Parkinson's disease, and he's also getting up there in age.

I can totally relate, because my abilities have declined. As a singer, my physical vitality has declined and, yes, it is difficult to deal with. I'm not what I was, and I never will be that man again, and Neil is facing the same problems, not only in the show, but in life too.

EDGE: Neil is long loved by Boston. With the show opening up here, do you feel any kind of pressure?

Mark Jacoby: No, I wouldn't say so. I think this show is going to rely largely on the success of the rendering of the songs, the musical numbers, the staging of them, and the singing. I will tell you, it is going to be spectacular. I think Boston audiences are just going to love it, but I also think audiences elsewhere will love it, too. I think it's a great choice to open in Boston. I don't think any Boston fan of Neil Diamond is going to leave the theater feeling let down.

EDGE: What is the message that you are hoping the audience will take away from the show?

Mark Jacoby: Neil is the same person both in his public persona and in person. He is simple, genuine, and he's very direct. He's very honest, and doesn't seem to have a lot of artifice about him. I think there's a special beauty about the kind of man he is. His music is just as beautiful. When you recognize how simple it is — and I don't mean simple as far as its composition, but how he expresses its universal sentiments — they're written in a very accessible and easy-to-understand matter. I really hope that the audience will get into the simple accessibility of Neil Diamond and what he is, what he's done, and what we're trying to do for him now.

"A Beautiful Noise" in Boston will play a strictly limited six-week engagement through Sunday, July 31. Tickets for the Boston run of "A Beautiful Noise" are now available at Emerson-Colonial Theatre website and for more information on the show, visit
visit the show's website.