Saturday, November 24, 2018

Girl from the North Country at the Public Theater - The Play and the Music Just Didn't Fit

I finally got to see Girl From the North Country several months after reading about the British production in Isis, a Dylan Fanzine from the UK.  I bought the CD by the British cast which included the music, but no dialog or indication of the storyline.  Girl From the North Country is a very romantic song that first appeared on The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan in 1963.  A duet with Dylan and Johnny Cash was done on 1969's Nashville Skyline.  I thus presumed that this would be a romantic play.

The play takes place in a seedy boarding house in Duluth, Minnesota (Dylan's birthplace) in 1934 which is 7 years before his birth and at least 25 years before any of his songs were written.  The play considers the predicaments of the boarders.  The choice of Dylan's songs to me doesn't reflect the script of the play.  Some of the segues are very awkward.  Dylan's biggest hit "Like a Rolling Stone" which is very bitter leads into "Make You Feel My Love" a romantic song popularized by Garth Brooks.  The cast dances to "You Ain't Going Nowhere" which bought me back to Roger McGuinn's singalong at his recent concert at Town Hall.  There was a boxer named Joe Scott who sang "Hurricane", but Ruben Carter's saga didn't happen for another 40 years.  The last song was "Forever Young" that seemed to unite everyone.

Conor McPherson, the director, and writer is described as perhaps the finest English playwright of his generation.  Dylan's music and lyrics are always open to interpretation and obviously, those songs affected Mr. McPherson different than they did me.

This review was written by a retired Chemistry/Chemical engineering librarian who has become a devoted patron of the arts in his old age.  I am listing a few more professional reviews:

  • New York Times
  • Variety - Reviewer Marilyn Stasio agrees that many of the songs are a poor fit for the setting.

We had terrific seats in the second row.  Above is a photo that I took before the show of the piano used.

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