‘Girl From The North Country’ Implants The Music of Bob Dylan Into A Heartbreaking 1930s Story - Noise11.com
Girl From The North Country - Lisa McCune, Peter Carroll, Peter Kowitz, photo by Daniel Boud

Girl From The North Country - Lisa McCune, Peter Carroll, Peter Kowitz, photo by Daniel Boud

‘Girl From The North Country’ Implants The Music of Bob Dylan Into A Heartbreaking 1930s Story

by Paul Cashmere on May 6, 2022

in News

There are two reasons to see ‘Girl From The North Country’ – the story and the music. Both are independent of each other.

The storyline of ‘Girl From The North Country’, by Conor McPhearson, would work as a play. The music could be a Bob Dylan concert.

The music of ‘Girl From The North Country’ is 100% Dylan. The title comes from a song on his 1963 album ‘The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan’. The music is not a Dylan greatest hits either. The curated songlist was chosen to fit the era of the plot, 1934. All songs are performed on instruments that were around in the 1930s. Most songs have been totally rearranged to the point where you have to listen to the lyrics to detect the song.

Girl From The North Country - Australian ensemble photo by Daniel Boud Girl From The North Country – Australian ensemble photo by Daniel Boud

Given that Bob Dylan fans are articulate and educated, the deep and dark plot of ‘Girl From The North Country’ pairs extremely well with the music.

Songs include:
• “Sign on the Window”
• “Went to See the Gypsy”
• “Tight Connection to My Heart (Has Anybody Seen My Love)”
• “Slow Train”
• “License to Kill”
• “I Want You”
• “Like a Rolling Stone”
• “Make You Feel My Love”
• “You Ain’t Going Nowhere”
• “Jokerman”
• “Sweetheart Like You”
• “True Love Tends to Forget”
• “Girl from the North Country”
• “Hurricane”
• “Idiot Wind”
• “Duquesne Whistle”
• “Señor (Tales of Yankee Power)”
• “Is Your Love in Vain?”
• “Forever Young”

Girl From The North Country - Blake Erickson and ensemble photo by Daniel Boud Girl From The North Country – Blake Erickson and ensemble photo by Daniel Boud

The storyline, set in Duluth, Minnesota in 1934, revolves around the Laine family. Nick Laine owns a guesthouse he inherited but is going bust in the depression. His wife Elizabeth has dementia, adopted daughter Marianne is pregnant and son Gene is without career prospects.

Guests of the guesthouse add to the storyline and create the dynamics. There is the conman Bible salesman, a former boxer, the widow, the elderly gentleman businessman and a former stockbroker who lost his business in the crash, his wife and son with a disability.

The first production of ‘Girl From The North Country’ took place in 2017 so the Dylan songs go through to his 2012 ‘Tempest’ album with ‘Duquesne Whistle’. Given the two opening songs, ‘Sign On The Window’ and ‘Went To See The Gypsy’, both from 1970’s ‘New Morning’ are both fairly obscure to anyone other than Dylan die-hards, the plot has time to impact before the more recognizable tracks come in.

The rearrangements make the music unique. Some, such as ‘Sweetheart Like You’ stick closer to the original version. I found ‘Hurricane’ a strange choice. While, yes, it deals with racism, it also has its own characters such as Patty Valentine, Arthur Dexter Bradley, Alfred Bello and Rubin Carter and therefore its own story away from this story to tell.

The cast is perfect in bringing the story to life. Blue Heelers/Sea Patrol star and four-time Gold Logie winner Lisa McCune play a convincing Elizabeth Kowitz. Peter Kowitz is Nick Laine, the guesthouse proprietor, Chemon Theys is adopted daughter Marianne, James Smith is wayward son Gene Laine, Terence Crawford is the doctor and narrator, Christina O’Neill the widow, Helen Dallimore, Greg Stone and Blake Erickson are the Burke family and Grant Piro makes for the snake-oil salesman, the reverend, with Elijah Williams as boxer Joe Scott and Elizabeth Hay as Katherine Draper. The part of Mr Perry, usually played by Peter Carroll, was played on opening night by Laurence Coy.

 

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by Girl From The North Country (@northcountryau)

‘Girl From The North Country’ is not a feelgood musical. It is not designed to make you laugh, but it will tug at the heartstrings giving us a glimpse of a time gone by.

Season Details
Venue: Comedy Theatre, Exhibition Street| Melbourne
Date: From 29 April 2022
Venue: Civic Theatre| Auckland
Date: From 1 July 2022
Venue: Opera House| Wellington
Date: From 22 July 2022
Venue: Canberra Theatre Centre
Date: From 25 August 2022
Venue: Lyric Theatre, QPAC| Brisbane
Date: From 8 Sept 2022

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