Reviews

The Notebook ** 1/2

By: Paulanne Simmons

March 22, 2024: If there were an award for putting the most clichés into one work, surely the new musical, The Notebook, would win it. In about two hours and twenty minutes, we see all the familiar themes: rich girl meets poor boy, parents don’t approve, poor boy goes off to war, mother steals poor boy’s letters, girl finds new man, poor boy comes home from war and the lovers are reunited, rich girl (painlessly) abandons new guy, lovers live happily ever after and die in each other’s arms.

Jordan Tyson (Younger Allie) and John Cardoza (Younger Noah)/

By: Paulanne Simmons

March 22, 2024: If there were an award for putting the most clichés into one work, surely the new musical, The Notebook, would win it. In about two hours and twenty minutes, we see all the familiar themes: rich girl meets poor boy, parents don’t approve, poor boy goes off to war, mother steals poor boy’s letters, girl finds new man, poor boy comes home from war and the lovers are reunited, rich girl (painlessly) abandons new guy, lovers live happily ever after and die in each other’s arms.

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

Of course, book writer Bekah Brunstetter can’t take all the credit or blame for the plot, which is based on a popular 1996 Nicholas Sparks novel, which became a popular movie in 2004. In fact, with the help of directors Michael Greif and Schele Williams, Brunstetter tries to add interest to the story by presenting the lovers in three different stages of their lives, portrayed by three different sets of actors.

Noah and Allie are portrayed by John Cardoza and Jordon Tyson as the young couple, Ryan Vasquez and Joy Woods as the more mature twenty-somethings and Dorian Harewood and Maryann Plunkett as the aged couple. The couples are mostly onstage separately, as they enact their blossoming romance, re-awakened passion, and almost forgotten love. But occasionally they join in melodic, if confusing, combinations.

Maryann Plunkett (Older Allie) and Dorian Harewood (Older Noah).

As we know little about Allie and Noah other than that she paints and he builds houses, their love must have something special to set them apart from every other couple. Unfortunately, all we are given are the aforementioned clichés. However, the most believable and moving part of Noah and Allie’s story is its last act, as Noah tries to get Allie to remember him through the fog of dementia by reading to her from a notebook, compiled years ago.

Indie-folk songwriter Ingrid Michaelson has provided a pleasant score of almost exclusively love songs. These songs have little to do with the story, other than reinforcing the couple’s love. And after you’ve heard the first song, there’s little to be discovered, musically or lyrically, by hearing the rest.

John Cardoza (Younger Noah), Dorian Harewood (Older Noah), and Ryan Vasquez (Middle Noah).

Katie Spelman is credited with choreography, but It’s not clear exactly what she’s done. The musical would have benefited enormously from ensemble numbers that would have placed the story in a more palpable time and place. This also would have necessitated a musical break from those endless love ballads.

The only reason for seeing The Notebook is to watch the magnificent Plunkett lend credence to an otherwise empty character. Her depiction of a woman suffering from dementia is perfect and heartbreaking. She deserves a better musical.

The Notebook **

The Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre
236 W 45th Street
Photography: Julieta Cervantes