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Five Reasons Why The Notebook is Not Noteworthy

By: Iris Wiener

March 31, 2024: Based on Nicholas Sparks’ best-selling novel (which also inspired the 2004 film adaptation starring Rachel McAdams and Ryan Gosling), this love story, spanning almost fifty years, is a stage adaptation with good intentions that got lost along the way in development.  Three sets of actors (teenagers, late-20s, and 70-plus) tell the story of Noah and Allie, a “will they, won’t they” tale that is as predictable as it is sappy. Audiences see the couple’s lives unfold over an initial chance encounter, their “unexpected” reunion years later, and their grappling with Allie’s memory loss under the dutiful watch of a nursing home. Bekah Brunstetter’s story moves between timelines (much as her stories did for This is Us, a project for which she was a writer) in a dizzying manner that is less tear-jerker and more head-scratcher. Here are five reasons why The Notebook is not a show of note:

Five Reasons Why The Notebook is Not Noteworthy

By: Iris Wiener

March 31, 2024: Based on Nicholas Sparks’ best-selling novel (which also inspired the 2004 film adaptation starring Rachel McAdams and Ryan Gosling), this love story, spanning almost fifty years, is a stage adaptation with good intentions that got lost along the way in development.  Three sets of actors (teenagers, late-20s, and 70-plus) tell the story of Noah and Allie, a “will they, won’t they” tale that is as predictable as it is sappy. Audiences see the couple’s lives unfold over an initial chance encounter, their “unexpected” reunion years later, and their grappling with Allie’s memory loss under the dutiful watch of a nursing home. Bekah Brunstetter’s story moves between timelines (much as her stories did for This is Us, a project for which she was a writer) in a dizzying manner that is less tear-jerker and more head-scratcher. Here are five reasons why The Notebook is not a show of note:

1.    Ingrid Michaelson’s lilting score is an entirely too long lullaby rather than the tearjerker promoted through clever marketing. (The Notebook tissues, anyone?) Every song sounds much like the last: slow and balletic, yet too similar to be poignant or memorable. Kudos for the beautiful use of fiddles to create the time and mood, but a more imaginative spirit would have been beneficial. 

2.    There is an undeniable lack of chemistry between the young Allie and Noah (Jordan Tyson and John Cardoza) and middle Allie and Noah (Joy Wood and Ryan Vasquez). The connections never seem to sizzle, especially at the forced re-creation of the iconic moment when middle-Allie is swooped up in the pouring rain for a long-awaited kiss. The only couple that tugs at the tear-ducts is the older Allie and Noah (Maryann Plunkett and Dorian Harewood), who would inspire empathy in the hardest of folks. Noah sings of the sorrow of aging while hoping to enjoy good days with his wife, suffering from the fearfulness of gradual memory loss.

3.    The direction is surprisingly tiresome, being that the stupendous Michael Greif (Rent) and Schele Williams (The Wiz) are at its helm. As the story meanders back and forth over decades in an interwoven love saga that never exactly hits home, there’s little of the nuance and intensity that one would expect from this team.  

4.    David Zinn and Brett J. Banakis’ set encompasses the eponymous lake at which Noah builds a home for himself and his love. However, it’s so far downstage and lacking in height, that most patrons in orchestra seats would not be able to see the most interesting aspect of the set design. The actors frequently flick water from the lip of the stage, but this action doesn’t compensate for the poor view. One can only imagine how much more intricate it looks from the mezzanine and balcony. The rest of the set pieces are functional but forgettable. The brightest visual aspect of the set is Ben Stanton’s intriguing lighting (pun intended), which effectively creates reflections, fireflies, and beautiful sunsets.

5.    The cross-racial casting at different stages in Noah and Allie’s lives is an unneeded distraction from the plot, especially for those unfamiliar with the story. Much of the audience left the theatre questioning the oddity in this choice, rather than appreciating the artistry of the piece as a whole. It wasn’t necessary to have Allie be African American in flashbacks, only to be Caucasian in her later years; for Noah, it was the opposite.

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