Tony Nominee Maryann Plunkett, Joy Woods, and Jordan Tyson on Playing the Same Character in The Notebook | Playbill

Special Features Tony Nominee Maryann Plunkett, Joy Woods, and Jordan Tyson on Playing the Same Character in The Notebook

For each of these three women, the musical marks a personal milestone.

Jordan Tyson, Maryann Plunkett, and Joy Woods Heather Gershonowitz

Nicholas SparksThe Notebook is heralded as one of the most beloved romance novels of the modern day. But to the stars of its new musical adaptation—now playing on Broadway at the Schoenfeld Theatre—its message and impact expands much farther than just one (fictional) couple’s love story.

The musical follows Noah and Allie throughout three core stages of their life. The show marks an individual milestone in the careers of each of its leading lady: Jordan Tyson is making her Broadway debut as Younger Allie, Joy Woods is originating a role on Broadway for the first time as Middle Allie, and Maryann Plunkett returns to the Broadway stage after 16 years as Older Allie (earning a Tony nomination in the process). 

Though all drawn to the project for separate reasons, the three performers share one soul onstage as they embody Allie: a strong-willed creative and hopeful romantic, raised in a comfortable home by successful parents. Her counterpart, Noah, is rougher around the edges, opting out of college and working hard to support himself and his father. Their different backgrounds are, at one point, what separates them for a decade. But, as Tyson puts it, their differences are also, ultimately, why they were made for each other.

“I think they both have something that the other needs, from the moment that they meet. And as the years go by, it’s a symbiotic relationship they have—even when they grow, they still both are attuned to what the other needs or wants,” says Tyson. Speaking particularly for her character’s moment in the story, she describes Noah as unlocking Younger Allie’s freedom. “The summer they meet, Allie is in that really delicate part of her life where she knows that she's a little more grown up, and he offers a sort of freedom to her: sensuality that has maybe been pushed away because she’s been trying to uphold being this good daughter, good friend, good girl.”

Jordan Tyson Heather Gershonowitz

Woods emphasizes another key factor in their relationship; while Noah does push Allie outside of her comfort zone, he never crosses a boundary. He communicates with her every step along the way. “He’s asking constantly if she’s doing the things she wants to.” She points out, referring to the life that Allie's parents have imagined for her, and Allie's desire to break free of those constraints. 

Through their relationship, Allie realizes the agency she holds. “He’s the door that opens womanhood for her, and she’s saying: I’m autonomous over my body, and I can say no if I want to,” Tyson says, adding that that first step towards autonomy sparks a lifelong journey for Allie of chasing her freedom—from Middle Allie choosing to leave the life she’s known for Noah, and Older Allie fighting to not lose herself when she develops a form of dementia.

“Watching someone lose themselves and come back to themselves...and watching it be because of another person, that's what makes this love story so human,” says Woods.

Adds Plunkett: “It’s not just a romance, it’s life—survival, persistence, and not giving up on something that seems hopeless." It is Older Allie who anchors the story. She struggles throughout the musical with a form of dementia, causing her to not recognize her husband (Dorian Harewood), who continues reading their story to her each day, hoping the words will ring clear in her memory eventually. “My own mother lived with dementia, so to get the opportunity to portray someone with substance—someone who is living with that and is fighting, not just retreating and being passive—is what drew me,” Plunkett reveals. Her hard work on stage has paid off. Alongside her onstage husband Dorian Harewood, Plunkett has been nominated for a 2024 Tony Award for her performance as leading actor (she's a previous Tony winner for Me and My Girl).

Maryann Plunkett Heather Gershonowitz

For a story that has long been adapted into a hit film and is considered one of pop culture’s most-loved romances, The Notebook musical has not fallen short on delivering the heart-throbbing sadness and joy—perfectly echoed in the title of the show’s Act I duet. Tyson brings up something that Plunkett had once said, that has now become a mantra amongst the cast: “There are thousands of Noahs and Allies in the world.” All three women have had heartfelt conversations with those who were touched by the musical. Tyson recalls a couple from Canada at the stage door recently, who were in their 50s and had just reunited and gotten back together after many years apart. To that couple, she says: “If you’re reading this: I remember you, and I always will.”

Even for those who have not had a similar love story, The Notebook has brought the realization to many that love, while not a rare experience, is so precious that it’s almost fragile. Woods shares how a friend who had come to see the show was struck by the story: “She’s been married for a few years, and she told me she couldn’t help but think about the fact that when she grows old with her husband, one of them is going to be gone first.” With this recollection, the conversation takes a pensive pause. It’s not an awkward silence, but an intimate one.

As Plunkett says, “Love stories are powerful in whatever form. This is about a man and a woman who live their lives together, but it’s about the love. I mean, my best friend, who I’ve known since I was 20 and we started theatre companies together…I can’t even think of life without her…It’s just sort of the realization that one of us is going to be screwed."

Joy Woods Heather Gershonowitz

With misty eyes, Tyson finishes Plunkett’s thought: “But you choose to do it anyway.” After another moment of thought, she adds: “There’s so much to lose. But there’s too much to lose if you don’t.”

Throughout their interview with Playbill, the three leading ladies of The Notebook were perfectly in tune with one another, sharing what felt much less like a typical question-answer interview, and what felt more like a deep conversation between friends, with laughter, tears, and warmth. They all expressed a deep admiration and appreciation for sharing the stage with each other. “I feel so lucky that in my first time originating a role, I’m doing it with these two. I feel like my head may have exploded carrying all of that on my own. I get to pass the baton, and pick up where she leaves off every night,” Woods says, with a playful point towards Tyson.

Adds Plunkett, with pride in her voice, “Being the elder out on stage watching the two of them—that has such poignance for me. This whole piece is about time…so, to see these two gloriously talented and beautiful young women delving into the character I also am…I feel the bond and alignment so strongly.”

The Notebook's Leading Ladies: Maryann Plunkett, Joy Woods, and Jordan Tyson

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