DramaFeaturedMusicalNorth WestReview

Girl From The North Country – The Lowry, Salford

Reviewer: James Mac

Book: Conor McPherson

Music and Lyrics: Bob Dylan

Director: Conor McPherson

Featuring the work of an unassuming artist (whose work you would least expect to lend itself to the commercial musical theatre genre), with a book and plot that mould around the score in the most captivating way, this show has worked its way into the god tier of jukebox musicals. The story that’s interwoven between the songs of Dylan swings between extreme ends of the emotional spectrum like a pendulum, helping to staple this as an unforgettably special theatre experience. What sets this show apart from its jukebox predecessors is that this isn’t a show that disperses hits between a plot line to satisfy a narrative throughline; it is instead a carefully constructed conversation between songs and story, that allows us to gain insight into the minds of the characters through the art of song. The work of McPherson and Dylan merge to create a beautiful collaboration that boasts class, heart and integrity.

Having gone from strength to strength since its original opening at the Old Vic in 2017, before transferring to the Noel Coward Theatre in the same year, it’s no surprise this show has won critical acclaim since embarking on this tour. Two of its original cast members, Sheila Atin and Shirley Henderson, both won Olivier awards for their performances. But despite this show being well established after its successful London run and now five cities deep into its tour, it still manages to capture a buzzing energy of spontaneity, igniting an excitement that feels like this is still a fresh, new, contemporary production even with its period setting. Credit to the cast for keeping this show oozing soul and radiating intense drama.

We’re transported to the Laine family guesthouse in Minnesota in the bleak winter of 1934, where America is in the grips of the Great Depression. The host of characters we meet are played by a strong cast who function like a well-oiled machine, making it hard to pick out stand-out individuals. That being said, Frances McNamee’s beguiling Elizabeth is full of strength and poise. She owns her character arc with utmost authenticity and grit, taking us on a real journey with her from the outset. Justina Kehinde is a raw talent whose Marianne is truthful and multi-dimensional. Joshua C. Jackson embodies Joe Scott, evoking a visceral earthiness complete with flawless vocals.

Movement by Lucy Hind always comes from a place of truth, creating an effective tapestry with her effervescent ensemble. Vocal arrangements by Simon Hale, with additional arrangements by Conor McPherson, are captivating throughout. They aid the story-telling exquisitely and seamlessly throughout. Collectively this cast is vocally mesmerising, whether singing as part of the highly skilled actor-musicians or in the soaring acapella sections. Lighting design by Mark Henderson makes for atmospheric mood shifts. The isolating spotlights and shadowy silhouettes contribute to the organic feel of the storytelling that unfolds.

Runs Until 24 September 2022 and on tour

The Reviews Hub Score

Easily the best jukebox musical in YEARS

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The Reviews Hub - North West

The North West team is under the editorship of John Roberts. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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