Much of the Bob Dylan musical “Girl from the North Country,” which premiered in London before landing on Broadway, has happened far, far from the actual North Country where it is set.
Now is a chance to get a behind-the-scenes look at the story — which is set in a Duluth boarding house during the Great Depression and features deep cuts by Dylan — when the cast gets together for a free online event.
“Road to the North Country: Interpreting Dylan” is at 6:30 p.m. Dec. 15 on the Tulsa-based Bob Dylan Center’s Facebook page.
“We’re going to sing some songs, we’re going to laugh, we’re going to reminisce, we’re going to dream of the future — and we’re going to show you bits of the Bob Dylan archive,” actor Todd Almond says in a video on the museum’s Facebook page. “And don’t worry. Broadway will be back; I promise.”
“Girl from the North Country,” a musical by Tony Award-winning Irish playwright Conor McPherson, is the story of the ramshackle boarding house and the people who live there: the owner, who is facing foreclosure; his wife, who has dementia; his pregnant teenage daughter; and the wayward 20-something son. There is a widow in one room and a family with financial struggles in another. More boarders are on the way.
The musical, which was set in motion by Dylan’s management company in 2013, premiered in London at The Old Vic in 2017. Dylan reportedly signed off on the project and sent McPherson 40 albums with his blessing.
The musical landed in the U.S. in the fall of 2018 and earned comparisons to works by August Wilson and Thornton Wilder from the Washington Post.
It opened at the Belasco Theatre on Broadway in early March — and within a few days was shuttered, like dozens of shows, when Broadway went dark. Performances have been suspended through May 30, 2021.
Despite the weird year for theater, the New York Times included the musical on its year-end best-of list.
“Who would have guess that of all the shows to open before the theater closed, the most movie would be a jukebox musical?” according to the write-up by a handful of arts journalists. “But ‘Girl from the North Country’ … was like no jukebox ever, with tunes (by Bob Dylan) that, instead of simplistically illustrating the story of Depression-era poverty, contextualize it … in sorrow and hope.”
In a review for the News Tribune, Mark Nicklawske wrote that the musical included social issues like the 1920 lynchings in Duluth, labor and business unrest and what it was like to be a woman in the early 20th century.
“The emotional and powerful musical drama — performed by a gifted and multi-talented cast — provides another example of the timeless beauty, honest insight and endless inspiration found in the Dylan catalogue.”
What: “Road to the North Country: Interpreting Dylan”
When: 6:30 p.m. Dec. 15