A Love Letter to GIRL FROM THE NORTH COUNTRY
My dear Girl (from the north country),
Even in a long relationship with many starts, restarts, endings, and new beginnings, I have always remained devoted to this show.
When I first saw Girl From the North Country at the Old Vic in London, I knew it was special. I will admit I was not too familiar with Bob Dylan’s songs (besides the hits), but I loved Conor McPherson’s work. After being lucky enough to briefly work on The Public Theater’s production in 2018, I fell even more in love.
Now, after receiving 7 Tony Award nominations, I am writing to gush about my three favorite things about the show now that it is finally back at the Belasco—filmed and extended I might add!
First, the orchestrations by Simon Hale. After I saw the show in London, the cast recording skyrocketed to the top of my Spotify Wrapped. Not being too familiar with Dylan’s catalog didn’t matter. The songs ebb and flow into each other in a supreme way. Thinking about the pulsing transition from “Slow Train” to “License to Kill” still gives me goosebumps. I love watching the delight in the older, more experienced Dylan fans when they hear newly orchestrated songs trickle out from the glorious band and performers. If you have not streamed the Broadway Cast Recording yet, I am begging you to do so.
Second, the book by Conor McPherson. The script is unlike anything else currently on Broadway, or any musical I have ever seen. McPherson is known for eerie work rooted in human pain (The Weir has always been a favorite of mine), but there is one line in Girl From the North Country that stops me dead in my tracks. When describing how she became pregnant, Marianne (the supreme Kimber Elayne Sprawl–in a stone cold expression) says that a wind blew into her room bringing something older than a man, smelling of ancient water. The imagery is simply too much for me—literally spooky. I also love the juxtaposition between the book scenes and music; it has an other-worldly quality like Marianne’s line.
Finally, the performance by Jeannette Bayardelle as Mrs. Neilsen. If you have been in close proximity to me since Bayardelle began playing this role on Broadway in 2020, you have heard me constantly obsess over her incredible performance. In my opinion, she has the best vocals of the 2021-2022 Broadway season. My jaw is fully on the floor anytime she sings during the show. I am so happy for her deserved nomination and think she is absolutely a contender to win.
If you haven’t seen it yet, let me know and I’ll come with you. I will be gripping your hand, cheering loudly, and weeping all night. As Dylan wrote, “Pack up your money, pull up your tent…you ain't goin' nowhere.”