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Theatre Review: “Girl From the North Country” Dazzles at the Pantages

Sheer perfection is what you get when you combine Conor McPherson’s brilliant script and sharp direction with Bob Dylan’s iconic music and lyrics, supported by dazzling dance sequences by a talented ensemble supervised by movement director Lucy Hind.  Sprinkle in Timothy Splain’s musical direction, Simon Baker’s sound design, Mark Henderson’s kaleidoscopic lighting design with Rae Smith’s scenic and costume design and you get the thrilling pitch-perfect National Touring Company’s  production of Girl From The North Country currently shining on the Pantages stage.

The story takes place in Duluth, Minnesota in 1934 during the height of the vgreat Depression.  The action centers in a rundown boardinghouse owned by Nick Laine, well played by John Schiappa. In addition to being on the brink of losing his business, he is also caretaker to his wife Elizabeth, hauntingly played by Jennifer Blood.  Her character is smack in the middle of a mental disorder causing her to lash out at those around her but has moments of clarity where she speaks the truth.  Elizabeth and Nick have a troubled son named Gene (Ben Biggers).  He probably could be a talented writer, but the booze has restrained his advancement.  Nick is is also concerned about Marianne, (Sharaé Moultrie) his adopted single, pregnant daughter.  Worried that he can’t take care of her, he enlists an older creepy Mr. Perry (Jay Russell) to propose a common-law marriage but she wants no part of that arrangement.  While devoted to his wife, Nick carries on an affair with Mrs. Nelson (Carla Woods) who keeps encouraging him to divorce his wife, which he is unwilling to do as despite the affair, he takes good care of her.  Another resident of this shabby flophouse is the boring  Mr. Burke (David Benoit) and the long-suffering Mrs. Burke played by an amazing Jill Van Velzer who belts out a song and accompanies herself on the drums.  Their mentally challenged son Elias (Aidan Wharton) has a propensity for violence and indeed might have committed a heinous deed.  Enter the action is sleazy Reverend Marlowe (Jeremy Webb) a man with larceny in his heart who sells bibles for a dollar a piece.  It would be wise to never turn your back on this “gentleman” who steals a dollar from Elizabeth but her frightening raging forces him to return the money. 

The last guest to emerge is Joe Scott (Matt Manuel) a down-and-out boxer who appears to be on the run.  He becomes smitten with Marianne and asks her to leave with him.  At first she refuses and one wondered would she actually catch a train with him  Also on hand is the narrator  and resident physician Dr. Walker (Alan Ariano) who does a splendid job taking care of Elizabeth as well as breaking the fourth wall to address the audience.

Throughout the play, Bob Dylan’s poetic songs (22) helps drive the action.  A sampling includes “Sign on the Window,” “Went to See the Gypsy,” “Like a Rolling Stone,” “Slow Train” “I Want You,” “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere,” and “Forever Young.”  Some of the musical numbers are performed with the singers in haunting silhouette while other solos or  ensemble numbers are sung before a stand-up microphone. 

With the exception of perhaps “Ain’t Too Proud – The Life and Times of The Temptations,” I don’t recall an ensemble of singers where there are no stars – but everyone is a star possessing incredible, legit vocal instruments that are goosebump generating.  It wasn’t difficult to anticipate the outcome, but nevertheless, the  ensemble, predominantly comprised of veterans of Broadway,  will keep you riveted until the final word is spoken, the last dance is danced,  and the final note is sung.  This is musical theatre at its finest and one you should try not to miss.

 “Girl from the North Country”                  
Hollywood Pantages Theatre  
6233 Hollywood Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90028
Written & Directed by : Conor McPherson 
Run Time:  2 Hours & 30 Minutes
Closing:  June 2, 2024
Performance Schedule:
Tue – Thu at 7:30pm
Fri at 8pm
Sat at 2pm & 8pm
Sun at 1pm & 6:30pm
Tickets: Hollywood Pantages Theatre Box or
http://www.broadwayinhollywood.com/

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