Every day this December, Playbill will be getting into the spirit of the season with some of our favorite Broadway stars for our 31 Days of Holiday Cheer series. Check in daily for videos of iconic holiday tunes, including some new songs about Christmas, Hanukkah, and New Year’s.
Countless famous musicians record a holiday album during their career—but few record five. Over the years, Neil Diamond has recorded four studio Christmas albums—The Christmas Album, The Christmas Album, Volume II, A Cherry Cherry Christmas, and Acoustic Christmas—as well as a Live Christmas CD. Alongside Irving Berlin, Diamond is considered one of the Jewish artists who has contributed the most to Christmas music.
Nick Fradiani, who is currently playing the prolific singer-songwriter in Broadway's A Beautiful Noise, The Neil Diamond Musical stopped by Playbill Studios to give an exclusive performance of a Neil Diamond Christmas album original. See his performance of “Cherry Cherry Christmas," accompanied on keyboard by Sonny Paladino, in the video above.
“He has incredible Christmas albums…and I’m not just saying that,” says the 2015 American Idol winner. “As an artist myself putting out original music, I’ve never quite been able to reach the stratosphere that Neil Diamond did,” says Fradiani. “So to be able to step into his shoes, performing these stadium medleys in front of thousands of people at our theatre…sharing Neil’s music and Neil’s story with everyone—it’s really special.”
As a musician, Fradiani connects with Diamond’s experience in more ways than one. “There’s a ton of scenes and situations within the musical that I was able to put myself in—the scenes with him arguing with his record label, struggling to come up with songs, the pressure of the career and always being away from home— I’ve had a lot of that in my life,” he says. Fradiani grew up listening to Neil Diamond. “It’s a very full circle experience to be able to play him,” he says.
Having performed shows and recorded albums of his own, Fradiani is no stranger to the vocal and physical stamina required of a musician. But Broadway is another kind of beast. “I felt pretty confident that I could do eight shows a week, but it is different when it’s every [consecutive] week,” says Fradiani. “So the biggest thing for me is sleep.” However, the performer admits that sleep has been a bit tougher to come by over the past few weeks because of a new addition to the family. “I just got a puppy,” he says. “That little hot dog drives us crazy, but we love him.” You can follow Fradiani’s journey with his new puppy, Sammy, on Instagram @sammythedappledox.
Neil Diamond’s sound also came pretty easily for Fradiani. Before he was cast in the Broadway musical, the musician performed a number of Neil Diamond’s songs at a cabaret in Texas. “I just noticed that the people in the crowd were like, ‘He kind of sounds like him,’” says Fradiani. When he saw that A Beautiful Noise was looking for a stand-in for Will Swenson, who originated the role of Diamond in the musical, Fradiani auditioned, booked the job, and fully immersed himself into the role. “I’m really obsessed over getting his phrasings correctly, and the way in which he falls off words and notes,” he says. “[Diamond] has a really interesting way of singing, and people know it, so I wanted to get it as close as possible.”
The performer has gotten used to wearing Neil Diamond’s shoes—or more so, his flashy outfits. But taking off Diamond’s sound is more challenging than putting it on. “So I’m interested to see how I’ll recover whenever—hopefully not for a long time—but whenever this ends, and I move on to something else. Hopefully, I can get back to my other voice,” says Fradiani, laughing. “It’ll come back,” he assures. "But I'm in no rush."
For tickets to hear Fradiani’s voice soar as Neil Diamond in Broadway’s A Beautiful Noise this holiday season, visit ABeautifulNoiseTheMusical.com.