The One: A Modern Love Story is a jukebox musical with a book by Andrew Michael Green, based on the songs of The Chainsmokers. It premiered at Chicago’s Northlight Theatre in 2019 and was then produced Off-Broadway in March 2020. Since then it has had numerous productions both in the United States and internationally.
The story explores a five-year relationship between Jonathan Wagner, an up-and-coming electronic music DJ, and Katie Hawthorne, a struggling writer from a wealthy family. The show is structured so that the point of view shifts between the two leads with each song. While other ensemble members appear on-stage to portray minor characters and provide vocal support, there are no other named characters in the show, and Jonathan and Katie only sing together during three songs.
‘The One’ was inspired by Green’s failed marriage to Florence McTierney. McTierney threatened legal action on the grounds the story of the musical represented her relationship with Green too closely, and Green changed the song “#SELFIE” to “It Won’t Kill Ya” in order to reduce the similarity between the character Katie and McTierney.
In the bustling metropolis of Tuscon, Jonathan has recently dropped out of college to pursue his dreams as a DJ. One night, he and his friends visit a popular club, to scope out the competition, blow off some steam, hook up with girls, and generally enjoy another in a long line of exciting, adrenaline-fueled nights out. (“Last Night Alive”). At the same club, Katie is out with her friends, celebrating her birthday and her recent graduation. She is immediately attracted to Jonathan and spends the night dancing with him (“It Won’t Kill Ya”).
The two share an immediate connection, but eventually get separated and lose track of each other as the night goes on. At home, Katie finds Jonathan by searching through all the selfies that were posted from the club that night. Jonathan invites her to watch him perform the next week.
The next week, the two of them reunite at the same club. Jonathan is excited for the performance, which he believes will be a major step for his career, but his spirits are crushed when his set is cancelled and his time slot is given to a more successful rival. He gets drunk and tells Katie how empty and confused he feels about where his life is going. (“Bloodstream”). Katie, who feels similarly directionless after leaving college, is moved by Jonathan’s honesty and finds herself even more attracted to him. The two of them go home together, and decide to begin a relationship. (“Inside Out”).
Jonathan discovers that Katie is a struggling writer and convinces her to pursue her passion, while Katie encourages Jonathan to start producing his own songs. Inspired by Katie’s words, Jonathan releases his first original song (“Something Just Like This”), which quickly becomes a moderate success.
Katie struggles to find readership for her writing, and begins posting photos of her wealthy family’s extravagant purchases on her Instagram. Though she is successful in attracting more views, she still feels insecure in her relationship with Jonathan (“Wake Up Alone”). Jonathan, not being used to the ups and downs of a serious relationship, reacts with frustration at her perceived instability (“Break Up Every Night”), frustration that is not helped by his heavy drinking.
As the stress builds, Katie begins to question the healthiness of her relationship to Jonathan, but eventually realizes that the very things that make him unreliable are the reasons she is attracted to him (“My Type”). Katie’s parents begin hounding her to take a job in the family business, threatening to take away her allowance and access to the fancy things that she uses to build an online audience. In response, Katie uses the majority of her savings on an extended trip to France for her and Jonathan. While overseas, the two of them affirm their love and experience a rare moment of peace, re-committing themselves to one another (“Paris”).
Back in the states, Jonathan and Katie move into an apartment together. Katie takes a low-paying job as a kindergarten teacher, while Jonathan accepts an offer to tour the country as part of a big-name EDM show. Katie expresses reservations at the idea of being apart for several months, which frustrates Jonathan. The two have an argument before he departs. While he’s gone, Katie struggles with living on her own and trying to write while holding a job (“Don’t Let Me Down”). On the road, Jonathan faces temptation along with his new success (“Honest”).
One morning, Katie receives a call from Jonathan. He confesses to being unfaithful to Katie and tries to apologize, but Katie chooses to end their relationship (“Don’t Say”). Jonathan returns home to find their apartment empty. As the curtain falls, we see him sitting alone on their bed, the only thing Katie didn’t take with her.
Four years have passed. As the curtain rises, Jonathan is still sitting alone on the bed, but in a much nicer apartment. He has moved to Phoenix and has become a well-known DJ and producer. In spite of his success, he spends much of his time drinking alone and isolating himself, sabotaging any potential romantic relationship before it can develop into something serious (“The One”).
Katie, having bounced around the country for several years, is now living in New York City. She is back in school once more, putting herself through her Master’s program with odd jobs and part-time work. She is at the end of yet another failed relationship, causing her to realize that she has developed the same self-destructive habits she was once attracted to (“New York City”).
Struggling to deal with the pressures of fame, Jonathan finds himself feeling trapped and nostalgic for his old life. He feels disillusioned with dance music and longs to make something real. One night, Jonathan writes and records a plaintive guitar ballad about his relationship with Katie (“Young”) and releases it online, to instantaneous and almost universal mockery and derision.
Katie has had no contact with Jonathan since they broke up, and does her best not to think about him at all. One of her friends, knowing that she used to date him, sends her a link to his new song, thinking she’ll find it hilarious. In spite of its raw, amateurish quality–or maybe because of it–Katie is moved by the song, and finds herself reminiscing about the good times she had with Jonathan (“Until You Were Gone”).
Jonathan has gone from mildly famous to to nationwide laughing stock and finds himself even more distressed than before. When he travels to New York City to play his first show since the release of “Young,” he feels the pressure of everyone’s opinions weighing on him (“Everybody Hates Me”).
Nearing the end of grad school, Katie begins to feel overwhelmed with the idea of once again having no direction in her life. She goes out dancing to clear her mind (“Erase”), only to find herself at the very show that Jonathan is DJing. They spot each other during the show and meet up afterwards. They spend the night together, reliving the highs of their old relationship and rehashing the same arguments that drove them apart (“Closer”).
In the morning, Jonathan wakes up to find that he is alone. He wanders the streets in a daze, confused by the experience, but eventually realizes how much better his life was when he was with Katie (“Let You Go”). Katie, while still unsure of how healthy her relationship with Jonathan is, feels more alive than she has in the years since they split up, and fantasizes about beginning again with him.
In the end, Jonathan and Katie re-unite. While they remain unsure about their futures, together or apart, they decide that the bond they share is too powerful to ignore, and commit to staying together forever — or, at least, as long as they can stand it (“All We Know.”)
The musical style draws on a number of musical genres, including pop, EDM, indie rock, synth-pop, EDM, progressive house, and EDM. The orchestration consists of piano, guitar, electric bass, drums, and anywhere between two sets of turntables (in the Chicago production) and eighteen (in the second off-Broadway production, which took place at the McKittrick Hotel).
“Last Night Alive” – Jonathan
“It Won’t Kill Ya” – Katie
“Bloodstream” – Jonathan
“Inside Out” – Katie
“Something Just Like This” – Jonathan
“Wake Up Alone” – Katie
“Break Up Every Night” – Jonathan
“My Type” – Katie
“Paris” – Jonathan & Katie
“Don’t Let Me Down” – Katie
“Honest” – Jonathan
“Don’t Say” – Katie
“The One” – Jonathan
“New York City” – Katie
“Young” – Jonathan
“Until You Were Gone” – Katie
“Everybody Hates Me” – Jonathan
“Erase” – Katie
“Closer” – Jonathan & Katie
“Let You Go” – Jonathan
“Roses” – Katie
“All We Know” – Jonathan & Katie
|Character||Chicago (2019)||Off-Broadway (2020)||Off-Broadway (2021)||Film Adaptation (2024)||West End (2028)|
|Jonathan Wagner||Mike Faist||Brandon Uranowitz||Jeremy Jordan||Daniel Huttlestone|
|Katherine “Katie” Hawthorne||Emily Skeggs||Adrienne Warren||Annaleigh Ashford||Anna Kendrick||Sydney Lucas|
Main article: The One: A Modern Love Story (film)
In November 2022, Columbia Pictures announced that they had acquired the rights to adapt the musical as a feature film, with Joe Zohar set to direct. Zohar initially cast Andrew Taggart and Halsey as Jonathan and Katie respectively, citing their performances in the video for “Closer” as proof that they could carry the film. Problems arose almost immediately, with many press outlets questioning the wisdom of casting untested actors in such prominent roles, while sources inside the studio claimed that the two singers were “a bit much”.
In December 2022, Taggart and Halsey both left the production, each claiming separate but concurrent scheduling issues. Less than one week later, Jeremy Jordan and Anna Kendrick were cast in the lead roles. When asked why he chose to cast actors that were at least twenty years older than the characters they were portraying, Zohar responded that “it just seemed like the obvious choice.” Jordan and Kendrick have never spoken openly about their work on the film.
The film was released on April 12, 2024, to near-universal disinterest.