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To Make ‘The Notebook’ a Musical, She Wove in Memories of Her Parents

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In October 2022, Chris Jones of the Chicago Tribune reviewed “The Notebook” when it played at the Goodman Theater, and raved that Michaelson had written “an absolutely gorgeous suite of songs.” But she knows that, given all the changes made in staging the story, fans of the book and movie might feel betrayed. “There are people who are unhappy that it’s not the movie,” Michaelson acknowledged. “Some people will come just to hate the show, because it’s another movie-to-musical adaptation. Others will come in expecting to see Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams look-alikes onstage. Whoops!

“It’s not a big, bombastic musical,” Michaelson said. “Hiring me sent the boat in a different direction — a quieter, more introspective direction.”

In writing songs for Allie and Noah, Michaelson incorporated thoughts she’d had about her mother’s death, as well as comments made by her widowed father. “I don’t want to talk about my parents the whole time, but there’s a lot of them wrapped up in these songs.”

As a result, she relives their deaths every time she sees the show. “I really didn’t have any breakdown moments since my mother died,” she said. “It wasn’t until a month ago, in rehearsal, that I completely lost it — like, a loud, guttural, other humans can’t see this crying. You’ve seen me cry eight times already today, so that might not seem convincing,” she wisecracked.

As opening night neared, Michaelson, no stranger to creative neuroses, had developed what she said her therapist called “pre-post-mortem anxiety.” Other than a record that she will release this summer, full of what she called “quiet, old-timey music,” she doesn’t know what’s next. “Being a woman of my age, without children or parents, I am untethered on both sides. I feel like I’m just a tire rolling down the highway sometimes.”

Fulfilling a dream from 35 years ago has been great, she said, but it has also introduced new worries. “I don’t want to be pigeonholed as the weepy, romantic writer,” Michaelson said, and then laughed. “Even though that’s probably what I’m best at.”



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