Welcome! This is your first free article. Get more free articles when you sign up with your email.

Girl from the North Country

“Beautifully sung but baffling Bob Dylan musical”

Conor McPherson’s play with music, set to the songs of Bob Dylan, tells the story of a collection of woebegone characters living in during the Great Depression.

Originally staged at London’s Old Vic in 2017, its plot revolves around the denizens of a boarding house in 1934 in Duluth, Minnesota. Every character is an archetype – the drunken writer, the pregnant teenager, the con artist, the morphine-addicted doctor.

The fine cast has little to hold onto, but Kimber Elayne Sprawl gives a fleet-footed, witty performance as the pregnant, self-determined Marianne, Austin Scott is quietly pained as a down-on-his-luck boxer, and Jeannette Bayardelle delightfully direct as a widow taking one last stab at happiness.

McPherson’s production orchestrates Bob Dylan songs with gospel and bluegrass inflections, invoking inexplicable nostalgia for the dark days of the Depression.

While the cast all sing beautifully, it’s never clear why certain characters take on particular numbers or even where they are when they break into song. McPherson’s production is garbled in its messaging. Sometimes he gathers the actors in front of microphones or has them play instruments like it’s a radio play, but the musical sequences have little connection to the narrative, which returns to a washed-out naturalism.

The way the show turns Hurricane, a protest song based on a real-life black man’s experience of racial injustice, into a drunken ensemble party number (while musically drowning out the black man singing it) is just one example of misaligned song, voice, and staging.

The production’s loosely-linked vignettes never form a coherent world and McPherson’s idea of America is unrecognisable; in its place, he’s created a confusing purgatory in which his literary ghosts wander.

Playwright Conor McPherson: Troubled men, ghosts, drinkers – ‘sounds a lot like real life to me’

Related to this Review

Girl from the North CountryGirl from the North Country

Production Details
Production nameGirl from the North Country
VenueBelasco Theatre
LocationNew York
EndsSeptember 27, 2020
Running time2hrs 30mins
ComposerBob Dylan
Book writerConor Mcpherson
LyricistBob Dylan
DirectorConor Mcpherson
Set designerRae Smith
Costume designerRae Smith
Lighting designerMark Henderson
Sound designerSimon Baker
Casting directorHeidi Griffiths, Jordan Thaler
CastMarc Kudisch, Matt Mcgrath, Tom Nelis, Jeannette Bayardelle, Todd Almond, Austin Scott, Ben Mayne, Bob Walton, Caitlin Houlahan, Chelsea Lee Williams, Chiara Trentalange, Colton Ryan, Jay. O. Sanders, Jennifer Blood, John Sciappa, Kimber Elayne Sprawl, Law Terrell Dunford, Luba Mason, Mare Winningham, Matthew Frederick Harris, Rachel Stern, Robert Joy
ProducerBarbara H Freitag, David Mirvish, Diana Dimenna, Dianne Roberts, Eric, Independent Presenters Network, John Gore Organization, Len Blavatnik, Marsi Gardiner, Mary Beth O’Connor, Nederlander Presentations Inc, Patrick Catullo, Rod Kaats, Runaway, Sony, Sony Atv, Steven Lappin, The Dodgers, The Old Vic, The Public Theater, Tommy Mottola
VerdictConor McPherson's beautifully sung but baffling musical using the songs of Bob Dylan
Add New Comment
You must be logged in to comment.
Nicole Serratore

Nicole Serratore

Nicole Serratore

Nicole Serratore

Your subscription helps ensure our journalism can continue

Invest in The Stage today with a subscription starting at just £3.98
The Stage
© Copyright The Stage Media Company Limited 2020
Linked In