This week Playbill checks in with Linda Powell, cast as the Doctor in the jukebox musical A Beautiful Noise at the Broadhurst Theatre.
Powell—who has also been seen on Broadway in On Golden Pond, Trip to Bountiful, and Wilder Wilder Wilder—plays Neil Diamond's no-nonsense therapist in the new musical. The show casts both Will Swenson and Mark Jacoby as the Grammy-winning singer-songwriter and features hits from Diamond's decades-long career in popular music, including "Sweet Caroline" and "America".
A few weeks before the start of 2023, Powell shared her thoughts about her latest stage role and how audiences and producers can help effect change on stage and off.
Powell—whose Off-Broadway credits include Passage, The Christians, The Moors, Jitney, Jar the Floor, and A Doll’s House—has been seen on screen in Dopesick, Modern Love, Madam Secretary, House of Cards, Chicago Fire, Law & Order: SVU, Draw Up & Stare, The Courtroom, and The Report.
What is your typical day like now?
We just opened, so I'm still searching for typical. The preview period had rehearsals during the day and performances at night, so there wasn't time for much else and the end of all of the opening chaos is bleeding right into our holiday schedule. I'm hoping to discover typical after the new year!
What are some of the challenges/rewards of your role as Diamond's therapist?
The challenge for me will always be staying on the balance beam of being present through the entire journey of the show. It's a role that requires a lot of listening, and managing my mind is a big part of the job. The reward of that if I succeed is feeling the quiet listening given back to me from the audience when we reach the top of the hill. That energy—the energy created by the communion of audience and artists (actors, designers, musicians, director, technicians)—is why I love theatre.
Had you been a fan of Neil Diamond before A Beautiful Noise? Do you have a favorite Neil Diamond song?
Yes, I have been! The Jazz Singer and Jonathan Livingston Seagull soundtracks were both albums I wore out. And, of course, for those of us of a certain age, he's just part of the soundtrack of life. My current favorite song is "Play Me," which I didn't really know before the show. Robyn Hurder and Will Swenson have made me fall in love with it.
Are there any parts of the role or the musical that seem particularly poignant/relevant following the events of the past two years?
The past two years have been transformative in so many ways, no? On a personal level, I spent a huge amount of pandemic time with my family, which was a silver lining. We lost my father last year, which led to a lot of transitions and a tightening of bonds. Dad was dealing with Parkinson's and some other health issues towards the end of his life, so the journey of someone facing the reality of time resonates deeply with me.
During this time of reflection and re-education regarding BIPOC artists and artistry, particularly in the theatre, what do you want people (those in power, fellow artists, audiences) to be aware of? What do you want them to consider further?
Broadway is facing a reckoning, and those of us who are BIPOC artists are advocating for change in a unified way that I think is very powerful. Change like we're demanding isn't easy—especially in the commercial world. I would ask audiences to expand their palates, try things outside of your norm. And, I would ask producers to continue to explore ways outside of the box to bring new audiences to our theatres.
What, if anything, did you learn about yourself during the past two years that you didn't already know?
I can roll with some punches!
Do you have any other stage or screen projects in the works?
I'm joyfully committed to my eight shows a week at The Broadhurst for the moment.
Do you have a dream stage role?
Hedda Gabler has always been on my list. I may have missed my window, but...on a big stage...with some makeup....
What organization would you recommend people learn more about or donate to during this time of change?
Thanks for asking that. Two donation suggestions. The Entertainment Community Fund, which supports performers and behind-the-scenes folks in times of need, and The Advancement Project, which focuses on racial justice issues—they do great work.