A musical adaptation of Nicholas Sparks’ romantic tearjerker The Notebook, a tale of love that lasts for generations, hits the stage at The Yard at Chicago Shakespeare Theater this month. Directed by Broadway veterans Michael Greif and Schele Williams, with a book by playwright Bekah Brunstetter, and music and lyrics by Emmy-nominated songstress Ingrid Michaelson, the show is primed to be a massive hit. Here, Michaelson fills us in on all things tunes—and advises viewers to “bring the tissues.”
Musical ace Ingrid Michaelson
What’s it like to create the music and lyrics for such an iconic story?
When the project was first brought to me, I was very excited. I was like, ‘Oh, my gosh, I have so many ideas’ because I love the movie so much. It started out really exciting and fun, but then I got in my head because it’s such a beloved movie, and people are going to come in with expectations. There’s no point in trying to do the movie onstage because it just won’t be the movie. So, once we came to that conclusion, all the pieces started falling into place. It’s the most fun I’ve had creating anything in my life.
What was your creative process like when approaching this project?
I started out knowing the source material so well on my own, and then it became very collaborative with Bekah, and then even more so with Michael and Schele, our directors. Sometimes there [was] a bit of a homework assignment, so I’d go in and tinker with things. So it’s all very, very collaborative.
You’ve said that the story of The Notebook “ sings to you so perfectly.” Why do you, and do you think so many others, connect to this story of undying love?
We play so much with memory and flashbacks, and those things fit perfectly into the musical theater world because you’re sort of suspending your disbelief in a way. And there’s the universality of the connection to loss and love and these very fundamental human staples that we’re dealing with in the piece. It feels very grounded in what it’s about, so we’re allowed to play and be taken to a very magical place.
What was your favorite part of creating the music and lyrics for the show?
I have written for other people in the past, but there’s something about writing music and hearing a large group of people learning and singing it—it’s wild that I’m on the other end of it, as the one that’s creating it. It’s incredible. The first time I heard people being taught some of the music and singing it back was really wild to me. I couldn’t believe it was happening. It’s so amazing, and I’m just very thankful.
What makes Chicago the best place to debut this show?
Everybody knows that Chicago is a theater town, and the audiences are really discerning. It feels like a smaller version of New York where you’re able to have a bit of space to work on the piece without feeling so watched. And we’re right on Navy Pier—what else could you want?
Any more musical theater projects in your future?
I hope so! But I’m never going to stop making Ingrid Michaelson records and touring lightly. I’ve loved musical theater for as long as I can remember—it’s what I went to school for. So I hope this is the first of many.
Photography by: PHOTO BY SHERVIN LAINEZ