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Why Maryann Plunkett and Dorian Harewood Fell in Love with 'The Notebook'

By: Sarah Rebell
Date: Mar 15, 2024

The veteran actors return to Broadway in a new musical romance


Love may never die but it does evolve. Maryann Plunkett and Dorian Harewood, who play the mature versions of Allie and Noah, the central soulmates in the new Broadway musical The Notebook, know that firsthand. Tony Award winner Plunkett (Me and My Girl, The Apple Family plays) has been married to her frequent costar Jay O. Sanders since 1991; Harewood wed his wife Nancy in 1979. They say tenacity is what keeps romance alive over the decades, both for their real-life relationships as well as their Notebook characters.

"It's not sugarcoating anything," Harewood says of the musical, which is based on the best-selling Nicholas Sparks novel that also inspired the wildly popular 2004 film. "That's what makes the sweetness of Allie and Noah's love that much more effective."

Adapted for the stage by indie-folk singer-songwriter Ingrid Michaelson and This Is Us scribe Bekah Brunstetter, The Notebook unfolds in flashbacks as Noah reads his wife their dramatic love story, which she can no longer remember due to dementia.

"The musical goes to the darkness and the depth of what this condition is," says Plunkett. "There are moments, of course, when Allie gets frightened. But mostly, she trusts him. Even when Allie doesn't know who he is—which is most of the time—she knows when he's not there."

Despite the cruel and terrifying nature of dementia, Plunkett finds moments of joy in her arc as Allie, who experiences "the lack of inhibition of being a girl again, that magic time in life when you feel wonder," she explains. "Noah happens to be her husband, but Allie doesn't know that. She's falling in love with the person she fell in love with" many years before, all over again.

Two sets of other actors play Allie and Noah at younger ages: Jordan Tyson and John Cardoza as adolescents, and Joy Woods and Ryan Vasquez as twentysomething adults. Notably, the younger Allies and Noahs are intentionally cast as different races from their older counterparts, a choice intended to emphasize the universality of their relationship.

"We're the same book with different covers," says Harewood, who's best known for his TV work (Roots: The Next Generations, 7th Heaven). "I think this unique kind of casting is great. Years earlier, there wouldn't even have been a thought about that. That's a positive assessment, in my opinion, to the way we as human beings are starting to evolve."

The Notebook
debuted what its codirector, Schele Williams, calls its "color-conscious casting" during its 2022 world premiere in Chicago. Plunkett was with the show then, but her original Noah, John Beasley, fell ill during the run and has since passed away. The Broadway mounting of The Notebook is full of little homages to Beasley. For instance, one character who used to be called Justin was renamed Johnny in his honor.

Even though Harewood never worked with Beasley, he admired the actor and is dedicating his performance to him. "Anything that I've done is a product of and connected to what he did in this particular role," Harewood says.

"And yet Dorian," adds Plunkett, "you are your own person." She is embracing her new scene partner while still mourning the loss of a colleague and friend. "I know that John would be so pleased to see Dorian playing it—except that he'd be so pissed off that he wasn't here," she laughs ruefully.

Harewood and Plunkett both got their starts on Broadway in the 1970s and '80s respectively, and The Notebook marks their long-awaited returns. She was last seen in a 2008 revival of A Man for All Seasons; his last Broadway show was 46 years ago, a short-lived drama called The Mighty Gents. They're thrilled to be back, especially in such a moving show that features an older couple in love, not playing for laughs. The Notebook is such an unabashed tearjerker that the merch stand sells branded tissues! And Harewood and Plunkett are the ones who are making audiences cry the most.

"You need not have read the book or seen the movie, because it is so terrifically written and the music is so beautiful," says Harewood. "It's its own entity. As good as the movie was, this takes it to another level."


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Sarah Rebell (she/her) is an arts journalist and musical theatre writer. Bylines include American Theatre, Hey Alma, Howlround, The Interval and TheaterMania. She is a National Critics Institute Fellow. Follow her at @SarahRebell. Follow TDF at @TDFNYC.