It’s a beautiful sad story.
In Toronto for a limited run till November 24, Girl from the North Country is a hauntingly sad but beautiful production. The beauty comes in three areas to create a masterpiece of movement and song.
- The Story line is simple and real. It’s a story that could have happened in 1934 Duluth, Minnesota during the great depression. The characters each have their story and come together as lost souls in this country home inn. The audience quickly understands their circumstances and is able to invest in the characters early on, allowing us to be drawn in deeper, become attached faster and ultimately have an intense emotional connection to each.
- The choreography is spellbinding. I’m not talking about the dance sequences, thought they were well incorporated, but how the actors move across the stage from scene to scene and within scenes. It’s flawless and yet punctuated with tableaus that focus your attention and allow you to be captivated. The simplistic stage setup allows you to constantly see the characters, how they interact with one another when the spotlight is not on them, every nuance of their story developing towards its crescendo.
- The music and voices intoxicating. Powerful doesn’t adequately describe the casts vocal talents. Each song was met with applause and sheer enjoyment from the audience. Nineteen Bob Dylan songs are performed by the cast throughout the production. Each is backed by instruments from the 1930s adding to authenticity and style. Dylan’s lyrics help build on the emotions and produced gut retching numbers filling the audience with tears and sobs. One becomes so connected during this performance that the songs just hit you, stay with you and allow the emotions to swell.
If you’re able to handle an emotionally charged story line with deep soulful voices and lyrics that feed your soul, then you’ve found your must-see production.
Rush Seat Tickets are available online for this production the morning of the show. All tickets can be purchased via www.mirvish.com
Plot outline available on Wikipedia with excerpts below
Duluth, Minnesota, a city on the shores of Lake Superior. It’s the winter of 1934 and America is in the grip of the Great Depression.
The story is narrated by Dr. Walker, physician to the Laine family. Nick Laine is the proprietor of a rundown guesthouse. The bank is threatening to foreclose on the property and he is desperate to find a way to save his family from homelessness. His wife, Elizabeth, is suffering from a form of dementia which propels her from catatonic detachment to childlike, uninhibited outbursts which are becoming difficult to manage. Their children are Gene, who is in his early twenties, and their adopted daughter, Marianne, who is nineteen.
Marianne is five months pregnant and the identity of the father is a mystery she guards carefully. Nick is trying to arrange a marriage between Marianne and a local shoe mender, Mr. Perry, in order to secure her future. The social awkwardness is complicated by the fact that Marianne is a black girl living with a white family. She was abandoned in the guesthouse as a baby and brought up by Nick and Elizabeth.
Gene is unable to get a grip on his life, and veers between ambitions of becoming a writer and debilitating alcohol binges, a situation not helped when his sweetheart, Kate, announces she is getting married to a man with better prospects.
Nick has become involved in a relationship with a resident of the guest house, Mrs. Neilsen, a widow who is waiting for her late husband’s will to clear probate. They dream of a better future when her money comes through, although she scolds Nick for his constant pessimism.
Also staying at the house are a family, the Burkes. Mr. Burke lost his business in the crash. His wife, Laura, and his son, Elias, share a room upstairs. Elias has a learning disability and the family struggle to come to terms with their reduced state.
Late at night, during a storm, a self-styled reverend cum bible salesman, Marlowe, and a down-on-his-luck boxer, Joe Scott, arrive looking for shelter. The arrival of these characters is a catalyst, changing everything for everyone in the house.
Cover Image: Gloria Obianyo, Shak Taylor and the cast of GIRL FROM THE NORTH COUNTRY Toronto/London Company. Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann, 2019.