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“Girl From The North Country Keeps Traveling”

Girl From North Country


"Girl From The North Country Keeps Traveling"

Review by, Michael J. Herman The Critic At Large

Bob Dylan is a Rock 'N Roll God and I dare any man to fight me on that contention. His songs are iconic and define more than a single generation. His music investigates the very meaning of humanity. A single cord can resurrect times of social and political unrest and of human self-expressionism.

Imagine my delight when I was scheduled to review Girl From The North Country, a touring Broadway

production incorporating the musical stylings of The Great Dylan. I could barely contain my exuberance.

Girl From The North Country runs from May 14-June 2, 2024 at the Hollywood Pantages Theater.

Tickets start at $39. It's an homage to Dylan and a well-deserved one featuring 22 of his original songs

spanning his 60+ year career.

Girl From The North Country is a Depression-era drama set in the 1930s about a boarding house in Duluth, Minnesota, and the people who come through it.

It's also about the white father of an adopted black girl trying to ensure her future stability by marrying her off against her will?

It's also about the burgeoning romance between an escaped convict boxer and a woman drawn to him under unrelenting social mores?

It's also about mental health and the loss of identity and intimacy in marriage?

Or is it about the brutality once inflicted upon the mentally disabled and perceptions of them at the time, and the prejudices that plagued society then as they do still today?

Or is it a hodgepodge of storylines and dramatic threads that tug at emotions as they hang and dangle in rhetorical abandon?

It's all of these and more.

I liked a lot of the show. Some of the performances were riveting.  The role of Joe Scott, a vagabond boxer seeking shelter against the wind played by Matt Manuel hypnotized and delighted. The vocals of (Chiara Trentalange) who embodied the role of Kate Draper, and dazzled as the thematic storytelling pianist were mesmerizing. This, while other casting choices were flat and lacking chemistry.

Staging and production design disappointed. Barely one austere set and a random projection drop background in the Second Act left me feeling that more emphasis should have been placed on creating an all-encompassing experience. All was left to the imagination as no effort was made in production design was made.

The Pantages Theater is an extraordinary venue for acoustics and sound. This production missed an opportunity to take advantage of such accoutrements. Rather than fill the auditorium with symphonic melodies, the band seemed to hold back promising more, but not fully delivering it until the final moments of the performance.

While many of the performances were outstanding and stood in stellar spotlight on their own, several casting choices were flat and left me feeling flummoxed. There is so much potential in this production but it falls short of that realization.

Dylan's music is known for its ability to vividly convey deep-rooted stories of relatable human experiences. The choices of Dylan songs chosen for this production were obscure and avant garde at best. Only a die-hard Dylan fan would know the deep tracks from which these songs come and often the songs conveyed messages inconsistent with the drama on stage.

There were some outstanding dramatic moments making the whole thing worth seeing and many of the vocals were sensational. It wasn't a bad show. It just didn't meet the expectations I had set for it.

In an ever increasingly crowded field of Broadway Musicals based on music from popular catalogues like Abba's Momma Mia, The Four Seasons' Jersey Boys, last year's Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill, and most recently, Sting's Message In A Bottle,  among others, there comes with it a higher bar to meet. For me, Girl From The North Country reached for but did not grab that bar.

Michael J. Herman is Editor-In-Chief at Luxury-Media Group and can be found on Substack.com and at TheCriticAtLarge.com.

Please let me know if and how I can be of value.
Michael J. Herman, Speaker-Writer-Author-Critic-At-Large
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