Girl from the North Country reimagines Bob Dylan‘s discography in a story about family, love, and heartbreak.
Narrated by the Doctor of the Laine family, the musical follows a family and group of guests who cross paths in a guest-house in the winter of 1930s America. The father, Nick, is the owner of the guest house (which we later learn is on the brink of closure), and his wife is ill, demonstrated by seemingly unmanageable outbursts throughout the show. Their adopted daughter is five months pregnant with an absent father, and his son appears to struggle with life, love, and work.
The story itself was a slow burner throughout with plot points only achieving clarity within the final moments of the musical. Certain parts of the plot felt as though they escalated quickly without prior indication, such as the pregnant daughter running off with a guest-turned-escaped-convict. This was coupled with what can only be described as intervals of confusion placed throughout the musical. Whilst these intervals successfully displayed the cast’s immense talent, they felt disconnected from the plot and slightly like a fever dream.
Following the death of a secondary character, all parts of the set were removed from the stage, which was accompanied by stark, bright lighting. The deceased character then sang a solo whilst the rest of the company accompanied with harmonies behind him. This was particularly poignant as it stood out from the rest of the act – and the musical as a whole. The contrast of lighting and set gave the impression of the character passing into the afterlife, or something of the sort.
However, ultimately, the musical’s chaotic plot points were neatly tied up with a narrated sequence explaining the outcome of each character, some of which were especially tragic, but it created a sense of relief in knowing the end of each individual’s story.
My main takeaway from this musical was the sheer talent among the cast. Every voice worked perfectly together to create a beautiful soundscape with immaculate harmonies, doing Dylan’s breadth of work justice. Whilst on the night I attended there were four understudies in principal cast roles, if I hadn’t been told, I wouldn’t have known.