Girl From the North Country (musical)
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Girl From the North Country Musical
Girl from the North Country
Girl from the North Country (musical).jpg
MusicBob Dylan
LyricsBob Dylan
BookConor McPherson
SettingDuluth, Minnesota, 1934
Productions2017 London
2017 West End
2018 Off-Broadway
2019 Toronto
2019 West End revival
2020 Broadway

Girl from the North Country is a musical with a book by Conor McPherson using the songs of Bob Dylan. It is the second Broadway show to use Dylan's music after Twyla Tharp's The Times They Are a-Changin'.


The production premiered at The Old Vic in London running from 8 July to 7 October 2017, directed by McPherson.

Following the success of The Old Vic production, it transferred into London's West End at the Noël Coward Theatre from 29 December 2017 for a limited 12-week run until 24 March 2018, with the majority of The Old Vic cast.

The production made its North American premiere Off-Broadway at The Public Theater in New York from 30 September to 22 December 2018, featuring an American cast.[1][2]

The show, featuring a new cast including Katie Brayben and Anna-Jane Casey, was mounted at the Royal Alexandra Theatre in Toronto from 28 September to 24 November 2019.[3] Following this run, the production and cast transfered to London for a West End revival at the Gielgud Theatre from 10 December 2019 to 1 February 2020.[4]

Girl from the North Country will make its Broadway premiere at the Belasco Theatre, beginning previews on 7 February 2020 and officially opening on 5 March.[5]


Duluth, Minnesota, a city on the shores of Lake Superior. It's the winter of 1934 and America is in the grip of the Great Depression.

The story is narrated by Dr. Walker, physician to the Laine family. Nick Laine is the proprietor of a rundown guesthouse. The bank is threatening to foreclose on the property and he is desperate to find a way to save his family from homelessness. His wife, Elizabeth, is suffering from a form of dementia which propels her from catatonic detachment to childlike, uninhibited outbursts which are becoming difficult to manage. Their children are Gene, who is in his early twenties, and their adopted daughter, Marianne, who is nineteen.

Marianne is five months pregnant and the identity of the father is a mystery she guards carefully. Nick is trying to arrange a marriage between Marianne and a local shoe mender, Mr. Perry, in order to secure her future. The social awkwardness is complicated by the fact that Marianne is a black girl living with a white family. She was abandoned in the guesthouse as a baby and brought up by Nick and Elizabeth.

Gene is unable to get a grip on his life, and veers between ambitions of becoming a writer and debilitating alcohol binges, a situation not helped when his sweetheart, Kate, announces she is getting married to a man with better prospects.

Nick has become involved in a relationship with a resident of the guest house, Mrs. Neilsen, a widow who is waiting for her late husband's will to clear probate. They dream of a better future when her money comes through, although she scolds Nick for his constant pessimism.

Also staying at the house are a family, the Burkes. Mr. Burke lost his business in the crash. His wife, Laura, and his son, Elias, share a room upstairs. Elias has a learning disability and the family struggle to come to terms with their reduced state.

Late at night, during a storm, a self-styled reverend cum bible salesman, Marlowe, and a down-on-his-luck boxer, Joe Scott, arrive looking for shelter. The arrival of these characters is a catalyst, changing everything for everyone in the house.[6]

Bob Dylan's songs

Nineteen Bob Dylan songs are performed by the cast throughout the production. Each is backed by instruments from the 1930s. The Original London Cast Recording was made at Abbey Road in August 2017, and released by Silvertone/Sony Music on CD in September 2017[7] and double vinyl in December 2017.

Songs include:

A 25-track, 2 CD 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.[8]


In a five star review The Guardian described it as a "remarkable fusion of text and music", comparing its use of multiple storylines to Arthur Miller's The American Clock, and its narrator to Thornton Wilder's Our Town. "McPherson has created an astonishingly free-flowing production and the 19-strong cast, which includes three musicians, is so uniformly strong it is tough to pick out individuals. (They) use Bob's Dylan's back catalogue to glorious effect."[9]

The Independent said "The idea is inspired and the treatment piercingly beautiful," adding that "Two formidable artists have shown respect for the integrity of each other's work here and the result is magnificent."[10]

The Evening Standard called it "Beguiling and soulful and quietly, exquisitely, heartbreaking. This is, in short, a very special piece of theatre."[11]

The Sunday Express hailed the show as "A tribute and a triumph" and The Times declared it "An instant classic."[12]

The Observer praised the play, calling it "One of the most transporting shows I have seen in years. I came away feeling that Dylan has been writing not a series of songs but an unfolding chronicle."[13]

Variety called it "A loving homage with a neat turn of phrase and a tang in the air. When people sing, it's as if they pop the bonnets of their brains and let us look inside," concluding that "The blend slips down easy: enjoyable and soulful."[14]

On the occasion of the West End transfer Richard Williams wrote in The Guardian "The great achievement of Girl from the North Country, Conor McPherson's musical based on the work of Bob Dylan, lies in the ability of the writer-director and his musical supervisor, Simon Hale, to find shades of meaning within some of the songs that would surely surprise even Dylan himself, a famously protean interpreter of his own creations."[15]

The Times awarded the play five stars calling it "a show that transports the soul."[16]

A five star review from the Financial Times said "It's original, beautiful and moving, combining the starkness of Steinbeck with haunting lyricism to create something restless, desperate, hopeful and sad."[17]

The Telegraph's five star review stated that "Not very often, a piece of theatre comes along that radiates an ineffable magic. Conor McPherson's musical play, which premiered at the Old Vic last year and now transfers to the West End, and which draws on heavily reworked versions of familiar and obscure Bob Dylan songs, is one such show. It's not a perfect piece by any means, but the rare alchemy with which McPherson fuses a dustbowl drama set in Depression-era Minnesota with the keening mysticism of Dylan's back catalogue makes it almost glow."[18]

The Sunday Express awarded the transfer five stars, saying "Bob Dylan's songs are so emotive and intense that they might well have overwhelmed the action. It's greatly to McPherson's credit that Girl From The North Country is such a compelling drama in its own right. McPherson has written a subtle and touching play about small town lives in middle America in the 1930s. The Great Depression has entered the very bones of the drifters and fugitives who end up in Nick's boarding house in Duluth, Minnesota. I hailed this show on its premiere last autumn. This well-deserved transfer should not be missed. It's the most powerful, affecting and original musical in London. And, yes, that includes Hamilton."[19]

Cast and characters

Character The Old Vic (2017) West End (2017) The Public Theater (2018) Toronto/West End Remount (2019) Broadway (2020)
Marianne Laine Sheila Atim Kimber Sprawl Gloria Obianyo Kimber Sprawl
Dr. Walker Ron Cook Adam James Robert Joy Ferdy Roberts Robert Joy
Mrs. Burke Bronagh Gallagher Luba Mason Anna Jane Casey Luba Mason
Elizabeth Laine Shirley Henderson Mare Winningham Katie Brayben Mare Winningham
Nick Laine Ciarán Hinds Stephen Bogardus Donald Sage Mackay Jay O. Sanders
Katherine Draper Claudia Jolly Caitlin Houlahan Gemma Sutton Caitlin Houlahan
Joe Scott Arinzé Kene Sydney James Harcourt Shaq Taylor Austin Scott
Mrs. Neilsen Debbie Kurup Jeannette Bayardelle Rachel John Jeannette Bayardelle
Mr. Perry Jim Norton Karl Johnson Tom Nelis Sidney Kean Tom Nelis
Gene Laine Sam Reid Colton Ryan Colin Bates Colton Ryan
Reverend Marlowe Michael Shaeffer Tim McMullan David Pittu Finbar Lynch Matt McGrath
Elias Burke Jack Shalloo Todd Almond Steffan Harri Todd Almond
Mr. Burke Stanley Townsend David Ganly Marc Kudisch David Ganly Marc Kudisch

Awards and nominations

Original London production

Year Award Category Nominee Result Ref
2018 WhatsOnStage Awards Best Original Cast Recording Nominated [20]
Best Supporting Actress in a Play Sheila Atim Nominated
Laurence Olivier Awards Best New Musical Nominated [21]
Best Actor in a Musical Ciarán Hinds Nominated
Best Actress in a Musical Shirley Henderson Won
Best Actress in a Supporting Role in a Musical Sheila Atim Won
Outstanding Achievement in Music Bob Dylan for composing and Simon Hale for orchestrating and arranging Nominated


  1. ^ Clement, Olivia (18 July 2018). "Marc Kudisch, Mare Winningham, Samantha Marie Ware, More Tapped for Girl From the North Country at The Public". Playbill. Retrieved 2018.
  2. ^ Review: 'Girl From the North Country' Sets the Darkness Aglow Ben Brantley, New York Times, October 1, 2018. Retrieved 12 June 2019
  3. ^ Retrieved June 18, 2019
  4. ^ "Girl from the North Country". Retrieved .
  5. ^ McPhee, Ryan (June 18, 2018). "Bob Dylan Musical Girl From the North Country to Play Broadway". Playbill.
  6. ^ Nick Hern Books | Girl from the North CountryByConor McPherson and Bob Dylan
  7. ^ Girl From The North Country (Original London Cast Recording): Music
  8. ^ The Music Which Inspired Girl From The North Country January 18, 2018. Retrieved June 13, 2019
  9. ^ Girl from the North Country review - Dylan's songs are Depression-era dynamite, by Michael Billington, in the Guardian; published July 27, 2017; retrieved November 3, 2017
  10. ^ Girl from the North Country, Old Vic, London, review: The idea is inspired and the treatment piercingly beautiful | The Independent
  11. ^ Girl From the North Country review: Bob Dylan's songs heard anew | London Evening Standard
  12. ^ Girl from the North Country Reviews | The Old Vic
  13. ^ Girl from the North Country; Mosquitoes; Cat on a Hot Tin Roof review - bringing it all back home | Stage | The Guardian
  14. ^ Bob Dylan Musical Review: 'Girl From the North Country' Opened July 26 - Variety
  15. ^ Girl from the North Country lets us hear Bob Dylan's mysteries anew | Stage | The Guardian
  16. ^ Theatre review: Girl from the North Country at the Noël Coward Theatre, WC2 | Times2 | The Times
  17. ^
  18. ^ A magical fusion of Dylan and the Depression - Girl From the North Country, Noël Coward Theatre, review
  19. ^ Arditti, Michael (2018-01-21). "Girl From The North Country review: Powerful, affecting and original". Retrieved .
  20. ^ "Winners of the 18th Annual WhatsOnStage Awards announced: David Tennant and Olivia Colman win". Retrieved .
  21. ^ "Olivier Awards 2018: the winners in full". The Stage. 2018-04-08. Retrieved .

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