Broadway Review: THE NOTEBOOK (Gerald Schoenfeld)

Post image for Broadway Review: THE NOTEBOOK (Gerald Schoenfeld)

by Paola Bellu on March 24, 2024

in Theater-New York


While specialty branded tissue boxes are sold for $5 at the merch stands, the ushers at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre should insert more in the playbill of The Notebook. Whether you have had a dear one suffer from conditions that affect memory and thinking, or if you are just a sucker for love stories, this new musical is guaranteed to break your heart. If you have read the 1996 novel by Nicholas Sparks and/or seen the 2004 movie directed by Nick Cassavetes, you know the plot. Worry not, others, I will not spoil it for you.

R1-5–Jordan Tyson (Younger Allie) and John Cardoza (Younger Noah)
John Cardoza (Younger Noah), Dorian Harewood (Older Noah), and Ryan Vasquez (Middle Noah)

In a modern day nursing home, an old man reads a romantic novel from a worn-out notebook to a female patient who suffers from some kind of dementia. The old man is played by the inimitable Dorian Harewood, who couldn’t be more touching in his attentive never-ending kindness; the old woman is Maryann Plunkett (Tony-winner Me and My Girl) who skillfully changes her emotional responses to show the overreactions, terrors, rage, and chaos typical of patients suffering from this condition. Plunkett is phenomenal in this role and rules our emotions every time she speaks. Andréa Burns plays Nurse Lori (and Allie’s mother) who seems to be the only attendant aside from a young physical therapist played by Carson Stewart, who successfully elicits a few chuckles, a needed break from the heavy subject.

John Cardoza (Younger Noah) and Jordan Tyson (Younger Allie)
Maryann Plunkett (Older Allie), Joy Woods (Middle Allie), and Jordan Tyson (Younger Allie)

The story the old man is reading comes to life: Lower-middle-class Noah and upper-middle-class Allie are typical teenagers living in the ‘60s who casually meet during the summer break. From the moment Younger Noah (John Cardoza) sees Younger Allie (an effervescent Jordan Tyson) there is an intense and immediate connection. As in any proper romance story, there are obstacles that prevent them from being together, namely Allie’s disapproving parents. The directors Michael Greif and Schele Williams have cast the couples regardless of looks or race so it’s tricky at the very beginning to understand who is who, but soon their choice becomes clear.

Maryann Plunkett (Older Allie) and the Cast of The Notebook

The indie-pop songs by Ingrid Michaelson don’t have memorable or witty lyrics and their simplicity may seem, at times, banal; it’s a love story and there is a certain amount of syrupy content to be expected. The music is smoothly executed by the orchestra conducted by Jeoffrey Ko, and sung exquisitely with just the right fervor.

Jordan Tyson (Younger Allie)

The writer Bekah Brunstetter changed the original story by introducing another version of the couple in their late twenties: Middle Allie (Joy Woods) and Middle Noah (Ryan Vasquez). Ten years have passed since their romantic summer and Middle Allie is now a cautious woman who is about to get married. Woods is gifted with a sharp heavenly voice and — executing Katie Spelman‘s shadowy choreography — an impressive extension; the audience broke into a wild applause after a few of her solos, giving her, at one point, a standing ovation (although I admit standing ovations are getting out of hand at the theater). Vasquez is exquisite as the quintessential hot working man with rough hands and a huge heart, and his work is always confident, passionate, and on point.

Maryann Plunkett (Older Allie) and Dorian Harewood (Older Noah)
Joy Woods (Middle Allie)

The three parts of Allie and Noah’s life together exist simultaneously on stage, framed by a dark outlined wooden country house with a porch and balconies designed by David Zinn and Brett Banakis. It is based on the home concept often repeated in the story. Young Allie dreams of a home, “I know nothing else matters / ‘cause one day you’ll carry me home”; Middle Noah reconstructs an old house for her “we build these walls / to live inside / and make a home”; but they can never go back to that state of mind now that they are old. The light design by Ben Stanton is inventively precise and and helps the dreamy part of the play become less predictable.

Joy Woods (Middle Allie) and Ryan Vasquez (Middle Noah)

My instinct tells me not to describe more. This is a musical to be discovered. Even though this romantic story contains some of the genre’s obvious clichés, it is a poignant show that casts a spell. And with the formidable Plunkett and the tantalizing Woods giving you their best, this is one for the (note)books.

(front to back) John Cardoza (Younger Noah) and Jordan Tyson (Younger Allie);
Ryan Vasquez (Middle Noah) and Joy Woods (Middle Allie);
and Dorian Harewood (Older Noah) and Maryann Plunkett (Older Allie)
The Cast of The Notebook

photos by Julieta Cervantes (2024)

The Notebook
Schoenfeld Theatre, 236 W 45th Street
opened March 14, 2024
for tickets, on sale through November 24, 2024, call 212.239.6200 or visit Telecharge
for more info, visit Notebook Musical
original broadway cast recording available April 19

Leave a Comment