Ingrid Michaelson Talks The Notebook, New Album: “I’m a Hopeless Romantic”

When the idea for a musical adaptation of The Notebook reached Ingrid Michaelson, she wrote every day for a year — or more like seven. “I kept writing songs and sending them to [producer Kevin McCollum],” Michaelson recalls to Ticketmaster of her first meeting in 2017 about the project. “I had sent him probably five or six songs before I got the job…it was sort of like a long, extended audition.”

Unlike the tragedy underlying the 1996 Nicholas Sparks novel, the 2004 film adaptation and its now Tony Award-nominated Broadway musical, Michaelson’s messages were received, and she landed the role of composing the production’s music and lyrics. Her prolific output continued through years of countless rewrites and discarded songs until the show’s debut at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater in September 2022.

So what connected Michaelson so strongly and instantly with the cross-generational love story in The Notebook?

“I am somewhat of a hopeless romantic, and I’ve also experienced the loss of both parents,” the singer-songwriter says. “There’s the romance part of it and the falling in love and the long-lasting, seemingly unattainable relationship, but then there’s also this larger component of living your life the truest that you can. That, to me, just felt like something I would really excel at writing music for.”

 

Michaelson’s relationship to the project continued through the transition to Broadway, where the musical opened at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre in March 2024. Weeks away from the show’s initial previews, the first-time Broadway composer made a new emotional discovery while rehearsing “Iron in the Fridge,” a wistful walk between two generations of the male lead, Noah Calhoun, while reflecting on their mutual past. “The song ends on a more sad note where [Noah is] realizing we’re never going to have that again. That sentiment came directly from my father after my mother got sick,” she says. “I had seen the song many times… and I just lost it.”

The feeling, which Michaelson calls a “beautiful reminder of my grief,” arrived during one of the show’s many moments of emotional release. “What I love about our show is that it allows you to break open. It allows you to feel, it encourages you to feel and maybe let that wall down. When you’re in a room with a lot of people and one person lets that wall down, and then another… you have this theater full of people that are all feeling this feeling together. To me it felt very cathartic.”

With The Notebook reaching a wider audience with its Broadway debut (and accompanying cast album released via Atlantic Records in April), Michaelson likens their relationship to a parent letting their kid “take the bus for the first time.” Now, her interpretation of the widely beloved, bestselling romance novel is “just out in the world for people to interact with, so there is a little anxiety there, but overall, mostly joy and relief that it’s out.”

 

The final production features three generations of its romantic leads, an updated timeframe from the source material’s ’50s setting, and of course, special rain effects that rival the film’s memorable kiss scene between stars Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams. The 2024 Broadway cast largely carries over from the Chicago run with Jordan Tyson, Joy Woods and Tony winner Maryann Plunkett sharing the role of Allie Nelson and John Cardoza, Ryan Vasquez and Dorian Harewood, who assumed the role from the late John Beasley, playing Noah Calhoun.

In April, Plunkett and Harewood earned Tony Award nominations in their respective categories for Best Leading Role in a Musical, while playwright Bekah Brunstetter also received a nod in Best Book of a Musical.

When it comes to the Tony Awards on June 16, Michaelson’s whereabouts are “to be determined,” but she assures: “I do have a plan.”

As for the massive catalog of ideas and scrapped demos compiled during the development process, including numerous efforts that led to the show’s showstopping ballad “My Days,” Michaelson suggests the songs could always become “firewood for others” or resurface on “a record of songs that didn’t make it to the show in five years.” She even reveals a song written for a completely new part of the couple’s timeline when Noah and Allie are “in their mid-forties and they’ve got two kids.”

The Notebook Broadway

Although her part in The Notebook is largely complete, Michaelson makes it clear that she’s not ready to close this chapter of her career yet. “I hope to do a lot more of it,” she declares, with one condition: “I definitely want a co-writer, because there’s something a little lonesome about all of it.” Could that lead to a co-production between Michaelson and longtime friend and Tony-nominated Waitress songwriter Sara Bareilles? “We’ve talked about it,” Michaelson teases. “She’s just a very wonderful human, and I would love to collaborate with her, but who knows?”

Michaelson is facing one certainty in her future with the August 23 release of For the Dreamers, her first album in five years. Preceded by the Jason Mraz collaboration “Love Is” and Louis Armstrong cover “What a Wonderful World,” the new album inhabits “a more classic space” than her typical pop-oriented sound, as Michaelson explains. It reflects “where my brain is working at right now, in terms of coming off of writing for The Notebook.”

 

On the topic of a potential tour around the album, Michaelson admits to relishing the opportunity of “not having to be the center of attention” during The Notebook circuit. However, she concedes to looking forward to “making people laugh… so the standup comedian in me that comes out at my shows, I do miss that a lot.” Even with her current production’s high romantic stakes and heart-wrenching depiction of love lost, Michaelson still manages to instill her effortless wry humor.

“I don’t want people to cry,” she states somewhat hopelessly as the adaptor of one of Hollywood’s ultimate tearjerker movies. “I just want people to come in with an openness and allow themselves to feel… I feel like we’re offering this service to people: Come in with your wounds and let us try to help you heal them a little bit.”

Tickets for The Notebook are available on Ticketmaster.

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