Review: GIRL FROM THE NORTH COUNTRY at The Paramount

The music of Bob Dylan in a stunner of a story.

By: Jun. 26, 2024
Review: GIRL FROM THE NORTH COUNTRY at The Paramount
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Review: GIRL FROM THE NORTH COUNTRY at The Paramount
Chiara Trentalange (center) and the cast
of the GIRL FROM THE NORTH COUNTRY
North American tour.
Photo by Evan Zimmerman for MurphyMade

Dear Readers, I will admit that “Girl From the North Country”, currently playing at The Paramount, is a tough one to get into.  It’s not a happy little romp and not structured like your typical musical.  But if you can get past the bleak and let those voices wash over you, it’s a tragically beautiful ride, assuming they can work out some of those sound mixing issues in the theater.

It’s the songs of Bob Dylan.  But the book from incredible playwright Conor McPherson is not set in the 1960’s as you might think.  It’s the 1930’s in a boarding house in Minnesota, and so the songs have been reorchestrated to be more bluesy, gospely.  The story centers on the residents of the town, specifically those in a particular boarding house.  There’s the proprietor Nick (John Schiappa) with his wife Elizabeth (Jennifer Blood) who’s got some mental issues and needs constant care.  Then there’s their son Gene (Ben Biggers) and his drinking issues, and their adopted, black daughter Marianne (Sharaé Moultrie) who’s got a baby coming.  Their lodgers have their own issues.  Mrs. Neilsen (Carla Woods), who’s extremely close to Nick, is waiting on an inheritance from her late husband.  Mr. and Mrs. Burke (David Benoit and Jill Van Velzer) are travelling through town with their adult, mentally handicapped son Elias (Kyle Sherman on the night I saw), trying to recover financially from the crash.  And then we have two new residents who showed up at 3AM, the sketchy Reverend Marlowe (Jeremy Webb) and former boxer Joe Scott (Matt Manuel).

As I said, it’s a bleak story, but definitely a slice of life of people in that era who were constantly backed into a corner with very little choices for their futures.  And the book and direction from McPherson is so deliberate that you just need to hang on.  The songs are stunning as many of Dylan’s songs are but are presented often times in a more concert/revival sort of way as the inner thoughts of these people suddenly burst forth, backed up by the rest of the town. 

Review: GIRL FROM THE NORTH COUNTRY at The Paramount
Jennifer Blood in the
GIRL FROM THE NORTH COUNTRY
North American tour.
Photo by Evan Zimmerman for MurphyMade

The cast is amazing with some incredible voices able to harmonize like few others.  The solos are fantastic but once the whole cast joins in, again, just hang on.  Hard to say who would stand out in a cast like this but I certainly had my personal favorites.  Blood not only managed those insane vocals but a very difficult role of a woman not having all her faculties.  Moultrie and Manuel both brought in some outstanding vocals alone but when they got together, your soul felt those songs.  And I must mention understudy Sherman who proves that these Broadway and touring understudies have the chops and the talent to match the “main” people and more.  He was stunning vocally but also had to play someone with some mental difficulties and he nailed it.

So, sure, it’s not a happy little show.  But they don’t all have to be.  And if you let it, the book and those songs will tell you a tragic tale that I know has stuck with me since I saw it on Broadway.  And so, with my three-letter rating system, I give The Paramount’s production of “Girl From the North Country” a “deserves to be seen” YAY.  Let me tell you, I heard that “Duquesne Whistle” and “How Does it Feel”?  It feels like I got hit by a “Hurricane”. 

“Girl From the North Country” performs at The Paramount through June 30th.  For tickets or information visit Seattle Theatre Group online at www.STGPresents.org.




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