Review Roundup: THE NOTEBOOK World Premiere Musical at Chicago Shakespeare Theater

The production stars Jordan Tyson, Joy Woods, and Maryann Plunkett as Allie, and John Cardoza, Ryan Vasquez and John Beasley as Noah.

By: Oct. 07, 2022
Review Roundup: THE NOTEBOOK World Premiere Musical at Chicago Shakespeare Theater
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Chicago Shakespeare Theater is presenting the world premiere of The Notebook, a new musical based on the bestselling novel by Nicholas Sparks that inspired the iconic film. Allie and Noah, both from different worlds, share a lifetime of love despite the forces that threaten to pull them apart, in a deeply moving portrait of the enduring power of love. Broadway directors Michael Greif (Dear Evan Hansen, Next to Normal, RENT) and Schele Williams (Aida, Motown the Musical) team up with multi-platinum singer-songwriter Ingrid Michaelson on music and lyrics, book by playwright Bekah Brunstetter (writer and producer on NBC's This Is Us), and choreography by Katie Spelman. Now playing in a limited engagement through October 16, 2022.

Portraying Allie and Noah across their lifetimes are Jordan Tyson as Younger Allie, Joy Woods as Middle Allie, and Tony Award-winner Maryann Plunkett as Older Allie; John Cardoza as Younger Noah, Ryan Vasquez as Middle Noah, and John Beasley as Older Noah.

The company also includes Yassmin Alers (Nurse Joanna), Andréa Burns (Nurse Lori / Mother), Jonathan Butler-Duplessis (Father / Son), Dorcas Leung (Georgie), Omar Lopez-Cepero (Lon), Sophie Madorsky (Sarah), and Liam Oh (Fin / Justin). Understudies include Alex Benoit, Mary Ernster, Jerica Exum, Jerome Harmann-Hardeman, RhonniRose Mantilla, and Carson Stewart.

The production's music supervisor is Carmel Dean, who is also collaborating on arrangements with Ingrid Michaelson and on orchestrations with John Clancy. Geoffrey Ko is The Notebook's music director.

Let's see what the critics have to say!

The Notebook Reviews - Chicago Shakespeare Theate

Chris Jones, Chicago Tribune: Greif co-directs with Schele Williams, and their staging, which already is exquisite in places, prevents potentially pulpy content from bathing in its own sentiment. They do this by focusing the show relentlessly on mortality, by revealing the pain of being old, by presenting characters who can be closed off to their own emotions, by reminding us that once we've made a mistake, its consequences can last for years and, above all, by really showing what it is like to fight the decay of your own mind.

Dennis Polkow, New City Stage: This is Michaelson's first musical but she has completely hit her debut effort out of the park. So much of what makes a musical work is not great songs alone, although "The Notebook" has those aplenty. Equally significant is how organically the music enhances the narrative, what it can communicate that words alone cannot. Here, the answer is everything.

Rachel Weinberg, BroadwayWorld: The overall effect is that The Notebook is a pretty musical indeed. The musical treats Allie and Noah's love story with a lighter touch than its source material, and the overall result is moving and graceful. In musical form, THE NOTEBOOK washes over audiences instead of hitting anyone over the head with bombast and cheese. Sure, parts of the narrative are still sappy and unrealistic, but Allie and Noah's story feels more grounded and lovely in the musical. It's an approach that works well for this musical adaptation.

Alan Bresloff, Around The Town Chicago: Directed by Michael Greif and Schele Williams on a wonderful set by David Zinn and Brett Banakis, this is a masterpiece . In many ways, it could be considered a chamber piece. The music and lyrics by Ingrid Michaelson are designed to propel the story. The book by Bekah Brunstetter evidently follows the original but with the modifications needed to create it as a musical. Every detail of this production from the costumes (Paloma Young) to the special effects (it rains on stage), the lighting (Ben Stanton) and sound (Nevin Steinberg), as well as the hair and wigs (Mia Neal) and of course the choreography (Katie Spellman) all fit to make this a total picture for us to see.


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