Yearning Across the Rainbow
“Yearning is in our DNA,” I remarked to my editor when discussing the pre-Broadway run of The Notebook at Chicago’s prestigious Shakespeare Theater. On its surface, The Notebook – based on Nicholas Sparks’ novel and the 2004 hit film – appears a classic boy-meets-girl story. But peering deeper reveals a narrative brimming with the ache and longing familiar to many LGBTQ+ lives.
As crafted by playwright Bekah Brunstetter (This Is Us) and songwriter Ingrid Michaelson, The Notebook resonates across the rainbow. It’s a meditation on overcoming obstacles, societal disapproval, and inner turmoil to follow one’s heart – universal quandaries faced by queer communities. Though Noah and Allie’s love story is cisgender and heterosexual, its core of nostalgia and star-crossed passion transcends orientation.
A Decade of Yearning
The show shuttles between two timelines: Noah and Allie as lovesick teens in the 1940s and their bittersweet reunion in the 1950s. In both eras, their romance faces formidable barriers. Class differences and disapproving parents tear them apart as youths, leading to 10 years of pining and regret. When they reunite as adults, Allie is engaged to another man, although her heart still belongs to Noah.
Parallels to obstacles in queer love quickly emerge. Parental rejection, societal stigma, and internal conflict often separate LGBTQ+ couples. From Oscar Wilde to Portrait of a Lady on Fire, coded letters and clandestine affairs define many same-sex love stories. Like Allie, queer individuals must choose to follow their hearts against familial and cultural tides. Michaelson’s yearning ballads capture these universal threads of love and heartbreak.
A Bittersweet Finale
After rediscovering their bond, Noah and Allie spend decades happily married until Allie develops dementia. In the show’s final scenes, an elderly Noah cares for his ailing wife, who no longer recognizes him. Yet he continues reading their story to rekindle her memories.
The ending celebrates enduring love while acknowledging its fragility. Queer audiences know such bittersweet nuance. Despite growing acceptance, our relationships still face misunderstanding and ignorance. Marriage equality is fresh and tenuous. And as trailblazers age, we mourn the loss of pioneers who paved the way. Amid joyful gains, we remain keenly aware of love’s ephemeral nature.
The Notebook captures this poignant balance. Its message transcends sexual orientation to speak to the shared human condition. As Noah says, “The heart knows no logic.” In this stirring pre-Broadway production, we’re reminded that great art and true love can speak in many accents, ages, and identities. But the heartbeat sounds the same across the rainbow.