Bekah Brunstetter (‘The Notebook’ writer) on providing ‘hope and uplift’ in a musical tackling ‘devastating’ Alzheimer’s disease [Exclusive Video Interview]

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

“I have Alzheimer’s in my family, I have a lot of it, actually, the genetic kind that tends to trickle down through generations,” shares Bekah Brunstetter about why Nicholas Sparks’ “The Notebook” and its film adaptation resonate with her so deeply. As the book writer for the musical adaptation that recently opened on Broadway, she wrote the piece as a way to honor her late grandfather. “The thing that was so beautiful, even when he was slipping away from us, he maintained his sense of humor and his love of life,” reflects the librettist, who hopes to “honor the experience of the disease but also provide some hope and uplift.” Watch our exclusive video interview above.

Brunstetter is no stranger to working on tearjerking projects, having served as a writer and producer on the NBC drama series “This Is Us.” “All the work we did on ‘This Is Us’ navigating the different timelines certainly helped me figure out the bones of this show,” reveals the writer, referring to how the musical follows its protagonists Allie and Noah in three different periods of their lives. The tone of both shows overlaps with her life experience, too, as she admits, “The biggest laughs I’ve ever had in my life have been during the most devastating times of my life. The two just kind of exist together.”

More from GoldDerby

WATCH our exclusive video interview with Joy Woods, ‘The Notebook’

Unlike previous iterations of “The Notebook,” the stage musical has three different actors playing both Noah and Allie. Brunstetter thought this decision of adding a third person to each role would “explode the ways in which we could tell the story and layer the timelines on top of each other.” She and composer Ingrid Michaelson “obviously love” the novel and film, but they made a conscious decision to put the source material aside when they began working on the musical in order to “create something new.” While they have made changes to some of the plot specifics, the writer explains, “We really do take seriously the expectations of the audience members that are coming in who love the movie,” and they desired to give them a satisfying experience.

Brunstetter and Michaelson made the “bold choice” to not have Older Allie, played by Maryann Plunkett, sing until the very end of the musical. Ironically, her song is “the first song Ingrid ever wrote for the musical,” says the writer, and she knew even in the early going that “it felt like the right thing to build to that moment.” The decision is rooted in the librettist’s understanding of Alzheimer’s, too, saying, “The truth of it is you slip further and further away, but oftentimes people will have moments of great clarity right before they pass away, which is just devastating and stunning.” All throughout the show, Allie struggles to remember her life with Noah, though she had previously written down their tremendous love story down in the title notebook for her husband to read to her and help her remember.

WATCH our exclusive video interview with Dorian Harewood, ‘The Notebook’

“The Notebook” is Brunstetter’s first book of a musical, which is a genre all its own that she says is “not exactly playwrighting” and “certainly not screenwriting.” The WGA Award winner for limited series “Maid” describes writing a musical book as “a constant exercise in economy and trying to be spare and saying a million things in two words.” Even so, “The Notebook” gives many of its book scenes room to develop and breath on stage. One crucial moment in particular is a confrontation between Middle Allie (Joy Woods) and Middle Noah (Ryan Vasquez), in which the pair reunite after 10 years apart but have a frank discussion about what happened in that decade. The writer quips that she rewrote the scene “nine million times,” but she worked so tirelessly on it because it grapples with the aftermath of the Vietnam War and she wanted to honor Noah’s experience of having to “come home to no love and no respect and no work.”

“The Notebook” marks Brunstetter’s Broadway debut. “It’s so thrilling and it’s so humbling and it’s so terrifying,” remarks the writer about how it feels to open a show in New York City and “hoping to connect with people.” She wrote her first play 23 years ago and says that while “it’s not a short journey,” “I’m here at the right time because I can really appreciate it… I’m feeling so grateful for the people who said keep going and keep writing.” She adds, “It is not lost on me. I really feel every moment that I’ve lived to get here and it’s awesome.”

PREDICT the 2024 Tony Awards nominations through April 30

Make your predictions at Gold Derby now. Download our free and easy app for Apple/iPhone devices or Android (Google Play) to compete against legions of other fans plus our experts and editors for best prediction accuracy scores. See our latest prediction champs. Can you top our esteemed leaderboards next? Always remember to keep your predictions updated because they impact our latest racetrack odds, which terrify Hollywood chiefs and stars. Don’t miss the fun. Speak up and share your huffy opinions in our famous forums where 5,000 showbiz leaders lurk every day to track latest awards buzz. Everybody wants to know: What do you think? Who do you predict and why?

SIGN UP for Gold Derby’s free newsletter with latest prediction

Best of GoldDerby

Sign up for Gold Derby's Newsletter. For the latest news, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Click here to read the full article.