Benoit Makes Broadway Debut

Alex Benoit, the 2017 U.S. pewter medalist in ice dance, is part of the Broadway show "The Notebook" and made his stage debut in May.

Above: Alex Benoit performing as Noah as it rains onstage at the Schoenfeld Theatre. Photo by Carson Stewart.
By Elvin Walker

When Alex Benoit stepped away from competitive skating six years ago, it was his dream to one day perform on Broadway. The 2017 U.S. Championships ice dance pewter medalist had left behind a world where an Olympic team berth was within reach to gamble on the life of an actor.

Alex Benoit, in a black shirt, brown jacket and beige pants, stands on the red carpet for the Notebook.
Alex Benoit on the red carpet for "The Notebook." Photo by Michaelah Reynolds.

In February, Benoit took his first step onto the Great White Way as part of the cast of the new musical “The Notebook,” based on the book by Nicholas Sparks and made popular by the Hollywood film with the same name.

Benoit initially learned about the project back in 2020 just as he completed his studies at the London Academy of Music and Art in Barons Court London. While he was preparing for his graduate showcase, the Chicago native was invited to audition for the out-of-town tryout of the pre-Broadway production.

“The audition came across my desk and the one thing that really rang out to me was that Ingrid Michaelson had written the music,” he said. “When I was in sixth grade, I created a playlist and the first track on it was an Ingrid Michaelson song. It was such an odd feeling – almost surreal, that someone whose music I listened to and made me feel things enough that it was the first song on that playlist.”

In preparation for the audition, Benoit received a packet of music and sides from the script and had approximately two weeks to get a recording ready for submission. As he began to digest the material, the budding actor initially did not feel comfortable with the music because it was not in the typical Broadway-type score.

After submitting his audition tape, Benoit waited a month before he was invited to an in-person audition at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater. Although the primary cast had already been set, the production was searching for someone to cover the young Noah track. Because the show is set over the lifetime of the lead characters’ lives, there would be three actors portraying the characters in different periods of their life journey.

His audition was early in the evening, and he received a call just hours later asking him to come in the following morning for another audition. The twist, however, is that the audition was for middle Noah, a different role for what he originally prepared and was given eight more pages to prepare. As he scrambled in anticipation of the callback, Benoit drew upon his experience as an athlete.

Alex and his wife, Jordan, in front of the Schoenfeld Theatre. A sign for the Notebook is above them.
Alex and his wife, Jordan, in front of the Schoenfeld Theatre. Photo by Sophia Itkin.

“Skating teaches you to think quickly on your feet,” the 28-year-old said. “At one point, we competed the first week in September, received feedback on our programs and had to apply changes in preparation for an event just two weeks later.”

Benoit’s audition went well, and to his surprise, he learned that Michaelson was watching along via webcam and remarked that she loved his performance. A few days later, Benoit received the call that he was being offered a contract for the show, and that once the details were ironed out, he would become part of the cast.

The show opened on Sept. 28, 2022, at The Yard in Chicago Shakespeare Theater to rave reviews, and there was talk of a transfer to Broadway in the spring. That spring came and went, but then last summer it was announced that the show would, in fact, be making the move to New York City. Benoit was in Canada with his wife, Jordan Grier, who is also an actor, visiting her family when he heard the news.

“It was incredibly exciting and then incredibly terrifying when it became official,” he said. “Now do I get a call or do I not, and it took about a month before I heard anything. They were holding auditions for my role and a lot of others except the lead characters because they had to see people (as part of the union contract), so I just kind of had to wait.”

Benoit knew that he had put everything that he had into the Chicago run but was pragmatic about earning his first Broadway contract. When he finally did receive the call, Benoit was offered the role of swing, which means that he understudies multiple roles in order to fill in when specific cast members are unable to perform.

“I am an understudy for middle Noah as well as Finn/Johnny, which are principal tracks in the show, and I also cover the role of Lon,” he explained. “I was also offered the opportunity to be the show’s dance captain, which is an incredible opportunity that I didn’t know if I would ever get to do. I get to use all of the skills that I learned in ice dance, such as different dance styles and working in coaching environments.”

Alex Benoit (back) and the cast of The Notebook (seven individuals) are smiling for the camera following his performance as Noah.
Alex and the cast of The Notebook following his performance as Noah. Photo by Yassmin Alers.

As in all swing roles, the name of the game is patience. Though Benoit will forever be part of the original cast who performed their opening performance in April, he had to wait until May 17 to make his actual stage debut in the role of Lon.

Getting to make my Broadway debut was, in a word, magical. It was, of course, the culmination of decades of work, dreams and support,” he shared. “They say it takes a village, and I can confirm that my wife, the rest of my family, my mentors and professors, all the artists I’ve met along the way and every member of my skating team – coaches, choreographers, my partner and all the folks along the way – were a part of that show.”

He continued, “Getting to breathe in the energy and the history of Broadway was truly special. Knowing I was now a part of the family, cherishing the art that came before me, and accepting the responsibility to put that same passion and care into the craft throughout the rest of my life. I am so thankful to each member of my journey for their precious ripple in my path, and especially to my wife Jordan, who taught me how to love, and the real importance of time – something that I got to share with the audience on the stage of the Schoenfeld.”

With each new experience that Benoit is afforded, he is reminded of his days on the ice competing under the bright lights of the arena.

In skating I might have felt nerves about nailing a step sequence or twizzles, or about how difficult I knew my task was, giving absolutely everything I physically had. On stage, it is remarkably similar,” he explained.

Giving absolutely everything physically and mentally, I have to experience the brightest and darkest moments of the character’s story, all while singing poignant lyrics on notes that challenge me to have my best technique. On top of that, I have to interpret written text to feel natural and real in the moment while hitting precise spots on a dark stage so that a single beam of light can find me. The nerves are always there, now I just look forward to them!”

Benoit was invited to be part of the Original Broadway Cast recording that released on April 19, and later that month, the production was nominated for three Tony Awards, including Best Book of a Musical.

“It’s the first time I have gotten to sing on an album,” he said. “It’s been crazy flipping through my Apple music or Sportify and hear me singing. Seeing people respond to the recording for their love of the show on social media has been unbelievable – it reminds me of that first preview and then opening night, which were just electric. To be able to share that excitement with people has been incredible.”

Keep up with Alex Benoit and his journey on Broadway by following him on Instagram (@alexbenoit95).