Girl From The North Country has taken the theatrical world by storm, selling out seasons in the West End, Toronto, Public Theater New York and on Broadway, and is now one of the most critically acclaimed productions of the 21st Century. Written and directed by celebrated playwright Conor McPherson, and includes 20 rewritten tracks from the legendary musician, Bob Dylan, including “Hurricane”, “I Want You”, “Slow Train Coming”, “Forever Young” and “Like A Rolling Stone” as you’ve never heard them before. This spiritually uplifting and beautiful story is set in Duluth, MN, during 1934, when a group of wanderers’ lives intersect at a house full of music, life and hope, weaving through lifechanging story.
“A TRIUMPH. GORGEOUS. THRILLING AND MOVING.” The Washington Post
“A THRILLING TRIUMPH POISED TO GALVANIZE THE NEW YORK THEATER SEASON.” – Peter Marks, The Washington Post
Set in Duluth, Minnesota, a city on the shores of Lake Superior, during the winter of 1934, and America is deep into the Great Depression. Nick Laine is the owner of a not-so-esteemed guesthouse, behind on his debt and with the bank threatening to foreclose, he is desperate to find a way to save his family from homelessness. Nick lives with his wife, Elizabeth, who suffers from dementia which propels her from catatonic detachment to childlike, uninhibited outbursts, making her difficult to manage, and their two children, Gene, in his early twenties and their adopted daughter, Marianne, a black girl that was abandoned in the guesthouse as a baby, and is now pregnant at nineteen.
Think it’s bad enough yet? Oh, it gets worse… Nick has become involved in a relationship with another resident of the guesthouse, Mrs. Nielsen, a widow who is waiting for her late husband’s will to clear probate. The two dream of a better future when her money comes through, although she regularly scolds Nick for his constant pessimism. Gene is unable to get a grip on his life, and desperately wants to become a writer, but between the debilitating alcohol binges, and his sweetheart, Kate, announcing that she is getting married to man with better prospects keep him from success. Marianne is five months pregnant, and the identity of the father is a mystery she guards carefully, although Nick is trying to arrange a marriage between Marianne and a local shoe mender, Mr. Perry, in order to secure her future. Also staying at the guesthouse are The Burkes, Mr. Burke lost his business in the crash, his wife, Laura, and his son, Elias, who has a learning disability, all share a room upstairs while trying to come to terms with their reduced state.
And now the fun begins, late one dark and stormy night… A self-styled reverend and bible salesman, Marlowe, and a down-on-his-luck boxer, Joe Scott, both arrive looking for shelter, and the addition of these strange characters is a catalyst, setting off, and changing everything for everyone in the house.
The production premiered in July 2017 at The Old Vic in London and directed by McPherson and won a Critics’ Circle Theatre Award. Following its success, it transferred into London’s West End at the Noël Coward Theatre in December for a limited run until March 2018, featuring most of the original cast, and winning two Laurence Olivier Award for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress. The production made its North American premiere Off-Broadway at The Public Theater in New York in September 2018, where it won an Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding New Musical, and made its Broadway debut at the Belasco Theatre, beginning previews in February 2020 but had to close in March, with a reopen date set for April 2022. Girl from the North Country also had productions in Toronto in 2019, Sydney, Australia in 2022 and Adelaide in 2022.
Nineteen Bob Dylan songs are performed by the cast throughout the production, with each being backed by a band playing instruments from the 1930s. An Original London Cast Recording was made at Abbey Road in August 2017, and the Broadway cast recording made in 2020 was nominated for a Grammy Award in 2022. A 25-track collection of songs taken from Bob Dylan’s original studio albums, entitled The Music Which Inspired Girl From The North Country: The Original Bob Dylan Recordings, was released in January 2018.
The Bob Dylan Musical ‘Girl From the North Country’ Has Been Brilliantly Reborn on Broadway, review by Tim Teeman, for Daily Beast, 2020.
“The first surprise is that Girl From the North Country, which marries the resonant, deeply felt playwriting of Conor McPherson and music and lyrics of Bob Dylan, doesn’t major on Dylan’s raw folksiness. You’d think it might. The play, opening Thursday night at Broadway’s Belasco Theatre and directed beautifully by McPherson, is a gorgeous, moving, thousand-times improved transfer uptown from the Public Theater. It is set in the threadbare, Depression-era year of 1934 in a boarding house in Duluth, Minnesota, full of characters variously luckless, desperate, loving, scamming, and scrabbling.
The marriage of McPherson’s serrated storytelling—where human tragedy and absurdity scythe away alongside each other, producing as many grimaces as laughs—and Dylan’s sharp songwriting is a darkly perfect fit. The 20 Dylan songs here impressively span from 1963 (“Girl From the North Country” itself) to 2012 (“Duquesne Whistle”), many rearranged with elements of soul, gospel, and big band, as well as staying true to what Dylan purists would want. The play combines both music and speech; it is not a musical or jukebox musical, or musical with words. Think of it more as a play furnished with Dylan jewels glinting off the prisms of the action.”