By Tulis McCall

Regarding “The Noteboook” – the new musical that just opened on Broadway:  If you have ever been in love, or read about it in magazines, or if you know anyone who was in love or know someone who knew someone who was in love, or if you have ever heard the word “love” spoken or sung, or if you ever read a story or a poem or even a recipe in the New  York Times that used the word love, or maybe you have heard the word but it was in a different language like French or Mandarin – if, if, if any of these apply to you – have I got a show for you!!!

I’m not that big a theatrical love fan myself.  Onstage it can be clunky.  Passion can be badly choreographed or altogether unbelievable.  It can be too loud or too long or too sophomoric.  It can be too repetitive.  I’m judgmental.  Sue me.

Which is why it is baffling that I got sucked into this story.  It could be because everything starts with the fabulous and not seen enough Dorian Harewood (Older Noah) who sings in a rich rumbly voice:

Time to get up, time to get up now
And let the bones crack into place
I look in the mirror, I see an old man
But in my eyes, a young man’s face
Time, time, time, time
It never was mine,
Mine mine, mine
But you know what is?
Love, hope, breath and dreams
As cliché as that seems

Soon the other generations of Noah and his wife Allie appear – Joy Woods as Middle Allie, Ryan Vasquez as Middle Noah, Jordan Tyson as Younger Allie, John Cardoza as Younger Noah – and we see them as living memories all singing the same tune that time never belongs to us.  The older Allie (Maryann Plunkett) is also revealed.  She is a patient in a Care Facility.  It is clear she is suffering from dementia.  For the most part she does not recognize herself or anyone around her – even her husband Noah who is also a resident.  One surprise here is the multi racial casting.  The three couples are completely different races.  No idea why, perhaps to mark the three time periods we observe.  Who knows?  Once you grab onto it, however,  it works fine enough to not matter.

Over the next couple of hours we are on a guided tour through Allie and Noah’s love-filled life via The Notebook.  When Allie was diagnosed she wrote their story in this notebook.  Partly as a way to help her remember before she forgot and also as a promise.  She told Noah that when things got bad, really bad, she wanted him to read to her from the notebook.  If he did that, she would come back to him.  Reading to her every day has become Noah’s raison d’être.  He is the sole possessor of the belief that Allie will indeed some back to him, and he will stop at nothing to be at her side every day with The Notebook.  Of course there are setbacks that sideline Noah, which calls for the PT staff member Johnny (Carson Stewart) to pick up the ball, which means we get to see the story with new eyes, and the tale takes on a new convert in the “rescuing Allie” mission.

The tour of the past includes the highs and lows beginning with the falling in love part – and this, dear reader is where you come in.  WHY these two fall in love, we never find out.  But then neither do they.  All they know is there is a fierce electricity pulling them together – despite parental wishes that would direct them elsewhere.  As much as this is an equal opportunity tale, it is the women (Jordan Tyson as Younger Allie and Joy Woods as Middle Allie) who are given solos that not only come close to stopping the show but reveal the depth of these characters emotional journey.  What is their path, their commitment to loving and their commitment to themselves?  Where are the guideposts?

This is such a tightly knit cast it is difficult to single anyone out.  Plunkett’s performance, however, as a woman suffering from dementia is the core of the story.  Her sensitive portrayal becomes the planet around which everything else revolves.

By the time the tale unfurls and concludes we are heavily invested in this couple and all their iterations.  Even the spring break students in the balcony were howling their approval song after song.  In the final moments of this production we are returned to our seats changed, lighter and more vulnerable than when we entered.  Which is what theatre is all about is it not?

When thinking about writing this review I remembered a quote by Annie Lamot

“I do not understand the mystery of grace — only that it meets us where we are and does not leave us where it found us.”

The Notebook: music and lyrics by Ingrid Michaelson, book by Bekah Brunstetter, directed by Michael Greif and Schele Williams, with choreography by Katie Spelman .

Maryann Plunkett as Older Allie, Dorian Harewood as Older Noah, Joy Woods as Middle Allie, Ryan Vasquez as Middle Noah, Jordan Tyson as Younger Allie, John Cardoza as Younger Noah, Andréa Burns as Mother/Nurse Lori. Playing various roles are Yassmin Alers, Alex Benoit, Chase Del Rey, Hillary Fisher, Jerome Harmann-Hardeman, Dorcas Leung, Happy McPartlin, Juliette Ojeda, Kim Onah, Carson Stewart, Charles E. Wallace and Charlie Webb.

This is an open-ended run at the Schoenfeld Theatre.  Tickets HERE