“What did you expect?”
After a hugely successful run at the Old Vic, Girl From The North Country transfers to the Noël Coward with the majority of its cast and all of its melancholy soul intact. Seeing Sheila Atim transform ‘Tight Connection To My Heart’ into the most heartfelt of laments was one of my highlights of 2017 and seeing it once again made me feel like it could easily be one of the highlights of 2018 as well.
Her performance is symptomatic of what makes this show so fantastic. The secret weapon in Conor McPherson’s production is the arrangement of the Bob Dylan songs by Simon Hale, an interpretative masterstroke which weaves the music into the very fabric of these people’s lives. (Though whether that makes this a musical remains anyone’s guess.)
Straight renditions of the songs are magnificent, as in Shirley Henderson’s ‘Like a Rolling Stone’ and Jack Shalloo’s ‘Dusquesne Whistle’, but arrangements for multiple voices really shine like Sam Reid and Claudia Jolly’s incandescent duet on ‘I Want You’ and the three female voices that give us a fleeting snippet of’ To Make You Feel My Love’. And the patchwork effect of threading echoes of ‘I Want You’ through the reprise of ‘Like A Rolling Stone’ further amplify the pure emotion of the music.
The show has transferred into the West End well (here’s m’review from last time), feeling perhaps even more intimate here within a smaller proscenium arch. New key cast members Finbar Lynch (in for Michael Shaeffer’s Reverend Marlowe), David Ganly (in for Stanley Townsend’s Mr Burke) and Adam James (in for Ron Cook’s narrator figure Dr Cook) have all blended in well, and it is good to see Emmanuel Kojo onstage again though I do wish it were a bigger part for him.
A well-deserved transfer for a triumphant success of a show. Don’t miss out.