A romantic Q&A with the cast of Broadway’s ‘The Notebook’ for Valentine’s Day

The new Broadway show opens March 14.

The Notebook
Photograph: Courtesy Liz LaurenThe Notebook

Twenty years ago, the film The Notebook was released in theaters and quickly became a sensation. Based on Nicholas Sparks’s bestselling 1996 novel, the story centers on Noah and Allie, a 1940s couple in a whirlwind romance that transforms into a lifelong love. Fans couldn’t get enough of the movie’s stars, Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams, who shared a steamy kiss in the pouring rain and whose undeniable chemistry carried over into an offscreen romance. 

It’s still common to see The Notebook ranked in the top 10, or even as number one, on lists of the best movie romances. Now a stage musical based on the same story is in previews at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre (just two streets down from where McAdams is preparing to make her Broadway debut in Mary Jane). The show’s creative team is full of heavy hitters: the music and lyrics are by singer-songwriter Ingrid Michaelson, the book is by Bekah Brunstetter and Michael Greif (Rent) and Schele Williams (The Wiz) are directing. Get your tissues ready.

In the musical, Allie and Noah are portrayed at different ages by six actors: Maryann Plunkett and Dorian Harewood play the oldest versions of the characters, Jordan Tyson and John Cardoza play the youngest, and Joy Woods and Ryan Vasquez cover the period in between. Ahead of the show’s official opening March 14, we asked these six stars a few important questions about all things romantic.

The Notebook cast
Photograph: Rachel Neville, courtesy of The Notebook The Musical | Dorian Harewood as Older Noah and Maryann Plunkett as Older Allie; Ryan Vasquez as Middle Noah and Joy Woods as Middle Allie; John Cardoza as Younger Noah and Jordan Tyson as Younger Allie

Who was your first celebrity crush?

Ryan Vasquez: Rachel McAdams. That Mean Girls/The Notebook year was formative. 

Jordan Tyson: Aaron Carter.

Dorian Harewood: Nancy Harewood (my wife).

John Cardoza: I think if you asked my younger self, he would say Jessica Alba. But the older, more honest and confident self has to admit it was Leonardo DiCaprio.

Maryann Plunkett: Davy Jones of the Monkees.

What was your most memorable Valentine’s Day?

Vasquez: This question took me back to Kindergarten when we would give little themed Valentines to our whole class. The purest kind of love! I think mine were Space Jam–themed. 

Tyson: In first grade, my crush showed up with a charm bracelet and the cutest stuffed animal puppy. I felt so special.

Harewood: The first one that I spent with my beautiful wife. 

Cardoza: I think there was a lot more anticipation around Valentine's Day when I was a kid. A holiday centering typically romantic love carried a lot of weight for my emotional teenage self, much like it probably would for my character in the show. I remember how the classrooms would decorate with red and pink hearts, and you'd bring cards in for your friends, and you'd worry about what to get for the person you have a crush on, or maybe you were building up the courage to say something to them for the first time. Those moments were beautifully awkward and I look back on them fondly.

What’s your favorite romance or rom-com set in NYC?

Vasquez: It’s been years and I’m still reeling from the West Side Story remake. Rachel Zegler’s performance in that movie lives rent-free in my head. 

Tyson: Friends with Benefits. The scene with the Grand Central clock tower. I just remember Justin Timberlake in that movie, and I love Justin Timberlake. 

Harewood: West Side Story.

Cardoza: Is there any other option than When Harry Met Sally? A classic.

What’s your favorite musical theater love song?

Vasquez: “As Long As You're Mine” from Wicked, for the downbeat alone. 

Tyson: “Falling Into You” from The Bridges of Madison County.

Harewood: “Dulcinea” from The Man of La Mancha.

Cardoza: "Say It Somehow" from The Light In the Piazza has always moved me. The lyrics are poignant and specific, and the melody and orchestrations complement the words so beautifully. The song really feels like an experience.

Plunkett: Sadness and Joy” from The Notebook.

Would you rather receive flowers or candy as a Valentine’s Day gift?

Vasquez: Candy, 10 times out of 10. Albanese gummy bears, if you’re wondering. 

Tyson: Flowers. I love peonies!

Harewood: I would rather receive candy.

Cardoza: I have a sweet tooth, so chocolate is the way to my heart.

Plunkett: I appreciate any gesture of love. 

What scene do you look forward to performing in The Notebook every night?

Vasquez: The scene when Noah and Allie reunite in the house he built. It’s beautifully awkward, electric, and emotional. It’s one of my favorite scenes I’ve ever worked on. 

Tyson: TheSadness and Joy” sequence—it’s when we fall in love!

Harewood: I look forward to performing the opening number. 

Cardoza:  Act One’s "Sadness and Joy." It is preceded by a rollercoaster of a sequence where we see Allie and Noah really experience the full range of emotions that accompany new and young love, which culminates in what I think is the moment when their connection deepens beyond initial attraction and intrigue for the first time. You see them experience a very mature understanding of each other. I feel really lucky that I get to experience and share that moment every night.

Plunkett: The “recognition” scene.

What’s your favorite date spot in NYC?

Vasquez: A walk through the Central Park North Woods. Dogs preferred, but not necessary. 

Tyson: Book Club Bar. Books and cocktails? That’s a recipe for a great date!

Harewood: I’m taking recommendations for when my wife Nancy visits!

Cardoza: I don't have one spot in particular. I'm a big fan of grabbing a coffee and taking a walk around the city. Each borough has so much character and you're always bound to find something new, and from there it becomes a choose-your-own-adventure kind of afternoon or evening.

Plunkett: Anywhere near the water—the Hudson, or the sea, or an in-city waterfall, with a book and/or music.

Would you spend a day at Coney Island or night at a concert at Madison Square Garden?

Vasquez: MSG! Though my goal this summer is to go to Coney Island for the first time since moving here. Bad New Yorker.

Tyson: Concert!

Harewood: A night out at a Madison Square Garden concert.

Cardoza: Coney Island for me! I've never been and am very curious.

Plunkett: I would not choose either Coney Island or Madison Square Garden. I would choose the quiet.

Write a one-sentence love letter to a fellow Allie or Noah.

Vasquez: Dorian: I love you like Daryl Morey loves James Harden, though I don’t have a painting of you in my house. Yet.

Tyson: John: You are my north star, my ghost light. If all I see is you, I know I am well.

Harewood: Sorry guys, the only love letters I write are to my wife. 

Cardoza: To my Allie, Jordan Tyson: You are a light in this world on and off stage, and I cannot believe how lucky I am to be on stage with you for your Broadway debut. 

Plunkett: Dear Young and Middle Allies: You are my heart.

Would you rather have a romantic getaway at the beach or in the mountains?

Vasquez: Ain’t no mountain high enough. 

Tyson: Beach!

Harewood: A romantic getaway in the mountains.

Cardoza: I love a mountain getaway. Put me in a cabin by a fireplace or on a stroll through the trees and I'm a happy guy.

Plunkett: Mountains.

Why do you think The Notebook is such a timeless love story?

Vasquez: Because it’s more than a love story. It’s about a lifelong partnership. The butterflies, sure, but the difficult times, too. The depth of a whole life. 

Tyson: People want to be as unconditionally loved as Allie and Noah offer each other. Well, I surely know I do.

Harewood: Because it chronicles the universality of love. 

Cardoza: For me what makes The Notebook so special is the unapologetic romanticism of the very simple aspects of life. These are two very normal people with extraordinary lives who make the most of their time together by feeling everything on the deepest level. It reminds us that every life can be extraordinary if we allow ourselves to experience the miracle of being alive in that way.

Plunkett: The Notebook gives life to the thousands of Noahs and Allies in the world.

Is singing romantic to you? Have you ever actually sung to someone in a romantic way in real life?

Vasquez: I don’t think I’ve ever sung romantically for someone in real life, but of course singing is romantic! Just ask Marvin Gaye. 

Tyson: Singing is romantic to me, but only if you’re gonna do it in a real way. I think it has to be earned, like in theater, or else it’s cheesy. I’ve sung to someone in a romantic way. But then again, I sing for everything!

Harewood: Singing is definitely romantic to me. I sing love songs to my wife all the time. 

Cardoza: I think singing can be extremely romantic. I don’t think I’ve ever sat someone down and let it rip right in front of them in that direct way, but I always have people in mind as I sing on stage or anywhere. Singing is my favorite form of communication so in that sense, I am always singing to someone.

Plunkett: Singing seems to be the breath of life when simply speaking is not enough. Whether to my husband, my son, or my mother. I don't know if that's romantic. It's life. 

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