Broadway Actor Robert Neary Channels Neil Diamond In "Immersive" Tribute Concert So Good

40 year acting veteran Robery Neary holds nothing back in belting out Neil Diamond's biggest hits
40 year acting veteran Robery Neary holds nothing back in belting out Neil Diamond's biggest hits Photo by Selah Neary
Looks like this year’s Hot August Night is coming early for Neil Diamond fans.

On Thursday, June 13 at House of Blues, Broadway actor Robert Neary will be starring in the ultimate tribute show to the best selling singer-songwriter in So Good! The Neil Diamond Experience.

Veteran stage and screen performer Robert Neary, best known for his work on General Hospital and appearances on primetime series Blue Bloods, Sons of Anarchy, and Grey’s Anatomy, conceived of the project as vehicle for his skills as a leading man.

“I’ve been a Neil Diamond fan my entire life, since 8 years old, actually,” Neary says. “I was an actor for quite a while, for almost 40 years. I still am, but after 2017, I did a Broadway show and couple of guest stars and the business really shifted in everything for me and my category. I needed to re-invent myself. I knew Neil Diamond had retired and I just started to sit down and put together a really great tribute show and I found an amazing band and here we are three years later. During the pandemic we got together, we perfected it, we sent it out to agencies and we started touring the country.”
Coming off of performing in the acclaimed Alan Menken musical A Bronx Tale on Broadway, Neary describes looking for something to put his unique stamp onstage. “I knew if I created something only I could do,” he says, “it would be amazing. It is not just a tribute concert, I have studied the man, so I know every bit of his life history, his mannerisms, his look, his voice. I put it all together in the show, that’s pretty much the reaction. It's one of the best things they’ve seen in terms of Neil Diamond, and the true experience of a concert. It really does speak for itself. The reviews have been incredible and we’re selling out venues.”

As a performer, Neary outlines his personal rules for keeping the experience pure for Diamond devotees. “As an actor, a professional that’s been on Broadway, I tell people: this is starring Robert Neary, so they don’t think its just a tribute show, they can actually look up my name and go to IMDB and Google and see everything I’ve done. I set out to immerse myself in becoming... and I never say that I’m Neil Diamond, because I actually got that note by Neil’s wife. ‘You just can’t speak in first person, you can’t make people think you are Neil Diamond, you can’t lead them astray – but we love the tributes.’ So I will put on the persona especially when I perform, I sound like him. When I speak, I’ll speak in third person to tell the stories behind the songs. But I speak with the deep voice, and everything and it sounds like Neil Diamond.”

Neary continues, giving insight into the process of scripting the presentational connecting bits between song performances. “I learned so much about his life,” he adds. “The behind the scenes stories for so many of the songs that we do. For me, I was just a big fan of his singing and the music – but I had no idea until I really immersed myself into this project and getting to know his backstory that he had quite a life. He suffered depression, and wrote one of the best songs he every wrote ‘I Am I Said’ because of that depression. I talk in depth about that story. I learned a tremendous amount about him.”
The process of selecting what songs actually made it into the showcase was difficult, says Neary - and he had a method to his madness for constructing the choice Neil Diamond set list. “I went and looked at his 50th anniversary album,” the singer says. “I went through and marked down all the ones that I definitely knew, that were big hits. It was probably 10 to 15 of them. Then I went through his concerts, his most recent concerts up through when he stopped touring. I looked at his last concerts and I saw the ones he did frequently, and we added those as well. So we do 22 songs, and we’re actually adding two more. So it will be 24 songs in total. They are his greatest hits. We’ll always get one or two people asking ‘Why didn’t you do this song?’ or ‘Did you ever think about doing this one?’ But the man has like 500 songs.”

From hits to deep cuts, Neary says all his favorites made the grade – but he teases a new addition to the line-up that will likely first appear in the show after this leg of the tour. “I realized he was a big Joni Mitchell song fan,” he explains. “they came up together writing together. And she wrote the hit songs "Both Sides Now," and I saw that he released it on an album, and his version has been a favorite of mine. So we’re adding that song now, and that’s gonna be hitting previews for the first concert in July. And I’ll mention that it’s the first one we do that he did not write.”

For the duration of So Good, Neary is backed by New York band The Mystic – but how the film and TV star came to be hooked up with the group is something out of a movie itself. “Yeah, it’s a great story about it in the show,” he says with zeal. “My family, my wife and my kids, we went to a Halloween party at this big hall. And there was this band playing, and they’re a huge band here in Long Island. They’re a huge cover band and they were playing every single song just perfect... and they did a couple of Neil Diamond songs. I just turned to my wife and said ‘Wow, can you imagine if I got this band to be my band and started to put this thing together?’

“The ball of fates just started and I looked on the stage at the trumpet player waved to me. He was my best friend in junior High School! I hadn’t seen him in 25 years because I lived in California. It was incredible. So I came back out after they had finished the show, and said to him I had no idea he was doing this on the side. I told him about my vision, and he said ‘Talk to the piano player, he’s the head of The Mystic.’ So we got together over coffee and within a month, we started practicing.”
With an ace band at his back, a set-list of killer songs in his range, and shows selling out across the country, everything seems to be aligning for Neary on this project. The one question remains – what does Neil Diamond, the man himself, think of this spectacle? “People always ask me if I did meet him, and I can say I did,” Neary says with good humor. “My history with him simply goes back to 1995 when I parked his car in Nashville and I was running a valet. We talked quite a while! As far as the show is concerned, he and his wife know of the show, they just haven’t seen it yet.”

Well, if the rock legend wants to experience his own legacy, Neary is offering quite a bit of enticement. “It's quite an immersion, we’re gonna rock it. I extenuate the fact, it’s not just a tribute show – be prepared: people thinks its Neil Diamond when I come out onstage, you know? I have the jacket, I have my hair like him, I resemble him. And I definitely sound like him, it's incredible.”

Neary’s performance is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Thursday, June 13 at Houston's House of Blues,1204 Caroline. For more information, call 888-402-5837 or visit $35-88.
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Vic covers the comedy scene, in Houston and beyond. When not writing articles, he's working on his scripts, editing a podcast, or trying to hustle up a few laughs himself!
Contact: Vic Shuttee