Critics were blown away by this brilliantly nuanced production. McPherson, the writer and director, has molded the music of Bob Dylan and guided an extremely talented ensemble to tell a hauntingly beautiful story simply and stunningly. Even the tough-to-please critics some of whom were fearful the show would lose its heart in the move from the Public, were moved and pleased, and none had anything but praise to heap on this reimagining of the jukebox musical genre.
NEW YORK TIMES REVIEW OF GIRL FROM THE NORTH COUNTRY
“…while this singular production, which opened on Thursday night at the Belasco Theater under McPherson’s luminous direction, evokes the Great Depression with uncompromising bleakness, it is ultimately the opposite of depressing. That’s because McPherson hears America singing in the dark. And those voices light up the night with the radiance of divine grace. A fluent fusion of seeming incompatible elements, ‘Girl’ occupies territory previously unmapped on Broadway, and it speaks its own hypnotic language….for this hybrid production…McPherson has thrown away all the usual jukebox templates….When the superb ensemble sings — tenderly, angrily and often ravishingly — it seems to come from a place their characters could never identify in their conscious minds, but which is essential to their survival.”
“Some people think Bob Dylan’s music is depressing…but overall, the morose music captures the bleakness of the period and the down-and-out hopelessness of those Americans who barely lived through it. So does the bare-bones wooden set by Rae Smith, who also designed the studiously appropriate costumes of subdued colors and tiny prints. In particular, Mark Henderson’s melancholy lighting design casts shadows everywhere….Anyone who associates Dylan’s songs exclusively with his own eccentric delivery of them should be astounded by the depth and insights that professional actors with great voices can bring to them.”
“Opening tonight in a Broadway production that both focuses and somewhat constricts the musical that seemed more physically expansive, more tonally dreamlike, in its 2018 Off Broadway incarnation, Girl From The North Country nonetheless remains a revelation in its uncanny interpretations of even the most familiar Dylan songs….it would take more than a change in venue to do any lasting harm to this often ravishing musical…Ditching the gruesome jukebox musical convention of twisting a new musical’s book to old lyrics never meant for such gymnastics, Girl…aims more for spiritual connections than literal ones….the Broadway staging of Girl From The North Country retains its wistful affection and respect for these Depression Era everypeople.”
HOLLYWOOD REPORTER REVIEW OF GIRL FROM THE NORTH COUNTRY
“No disrespect to Bob Dylan, one of the greatest songwriters in modern American music, but hearing his tunes sung by the melodious voices in Girl From the North Country is a revelation…this brilliantly conceived project from Irish writer-director Conor McPherson could be called the anti-jukebox musical. Rather than being forcibly wedged into the narrative, the songs are used with imagination and a sweeping amplitude of feeling to deepen the mood, enrich the characters and liberate their inner voices. The result is a rapturous act of theatrical storytelling…For such a large-scale ensemble piece it’s extraordinary that every character is so vividly etched — and all of them played with naturalistic brushstrokes; there’s none of the usual artificially big ‘musical-theater acting.’…It feels simplistic to call Girl From the North Country a musical since it’s such a unique and unconventional project…McPherson’s artistry, his evident connection to Dylan’s work and his grasp of the songs’ slippery storytelling power give you fresh hope for the genre.”
CHICAGO TRIBUNE REVIEW OF GIRL FROM THE NORTH COUNTRY
“Far closer to Eugene O’Neill’s ‘The Iceman Cometh’ than ‘Mamma Mia!,’ the beguiling and beautiful new show at the Belasco Theatre is hardly a Bob Dylan jukebox musical. Sure, the score for ‘Girl From the North Country,’ an ensemble piece that showcases Mare Winningham in an extraordinarily intense and musically compelling performance, is comprised of more than 20 of the legendary protest-warbler’s iconic compositions…But instead of the usual trite Broadway biographical trajectory…the actual context of the gravely Dylan’s famously reclusive life has little or nothing to do with this show. Instead, Dylan’s music has been rearranged and reorchestrated by Simon Hale, with uncanny texture and dramatic complexity, and then plunked down into an entirely original story by the great Irish playwright Conor McPherson…’Girl From the North Country,’ it will be evident, is not a cheerful night at the theater nor a chance to escape from a world wracked by a virus…But at least they have Dylan’s music to articulate their sadness and aid our understanding of this country and its lost souls.”
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