The national tour of Girl from The North Country is now at the Aronoff. Girl is a jukebox musical featuring the music of Bob Dylan with book and direction by Conor McPherson. (For context – a jukebox musical is a musical that features popular music of a well-known musical artist.)
Set in 1934 Duluth, Minnesota, this musical centers around down on their luck travelers whose lives converge by way of a guest house. A doctor by the name of Dr. Walker (Danny Vaccaro) narrates the story and helps to set the scene. He tells the audience that the guest house is run by Nick Laine (John Schiappa). Nick is caring for his ailing wife, Elizabeth (Jennifer Blood) and his pregnant daughter, Marianne (Sharaé Moultrie). As the show progresses, audiences meet a slew of characters, from a bible selling reverend to a boxer just passing through.
A Play with Music
You don’t need to be a fan of Bob Dylan to recognize what a gem this show is. While it’s a musical, it feels more like a play with music. McPherson’s book of the show highlights the way in which pain and grief can manifest itself.
Lyrically, the music emphases the longing for a better future felt by the various travelers. Bob Dylan’s music doesn’t follow the traditional musical theatre framework you may be used to seeing. With a mostly bare stage, the actors play their own instruments adding to the allure of the production.
Scenic and costume designer Rae Smith, and lighting designer Mark Henderson have focused on creating more of an emotional “atmosphere” than spectacle.
Set during the great depression, Girl from the North Country explores how people will do just about anything just to make it to the next day. Not everyone has that happy ending. Not everyone experiences the grass that’s greener on the other side.
Throughout the course of two hours, we start to see the demons that haunt these travelers. From debt and wanting to start over to caring for loved ones as you watch them decline. This is a musical about people and what drives us to keep going when all we want to do is give up.
While it’s not a show with a big gaudy set and flashy costumes, it pulls at the heartstrings and by the end you’ll find yourself moved beyond words with the music transporting you. Audiences will appreciate the beautiful vocal arrangements and heartbreakingly beautiful story. I recommend this for anyone looking for a show that touches the soul.
Tickets for Girl from the North Country
Girl from the North Country, part of the Fifth Third Broadway in Cincinnati series, runs through October 29. Tickets can be found here.