The haunting Broadway musical "Girl From The North Country" features the vast catalogue of Bob Dylan songs sung by Broadway’s most ravishing voices. Writer/director Conor McPherson masterfully intermingles Dylan songs with a stories about longing, despair and hope.
(Marc Kudisch back row, far left) and the principal cast of ‘Girl From the North Country’
Photo by Jeremy Daniel
The setting is a run-down boarding house in Duluth, Minnesota. It’s Winter 1934. The nation is in the midst of the Great Depression. A variety of characters live together under one roof, coping as best they can, as they long for a better life. As their paths cross each person is driven by a dream and they have a song to sing.
As Ben Brantley of The New York Times said, the show is “as close as mortals come to heaven on earth.” When reflecting on Dylan "Girl From The North Country" cast member Todd Almond shares, "He holds us to this really high standard. It seems like he can be really hash in his lyrics on all of us...We're all guilty in the Bob Dylan universe, but we're all worthy of transcrencding that to be better. He is holding up the mirror up to all of us and showing us what we are worthy of and what we are guilty of at the same time." And cast member Jeannette Bayardelle adds, "to sing those lyrics and about someone who will love you unconditionally...has brought comfort to me."
This past week a virtual live stream event was held on Facebook that is still available to watch here. “Road to the North Country: Interpreting Dylan,” presented by the Bob Dylan Center, featured cast members from the show. They discussed interpreting Bob Dylan’s words and music and shared videos of the cast performing songs featured in the show, including content created during the shutdown. The show will return to Broadway when it reopens in 2021.
Girl From The North Country features a talented cast including Todd Almond, Jeannette Bayardelle, Jennifer Blood, Law Terrell Dunford, Matthew Frederick Harris, Caitlin Houlahan, Robert Joy, Tony Award nominee Marc Kudisch, Luba Mason, Ben Mayne, Matt McGrath, Tom Nelis, Colton Ryan, Jay O. Sanders, John Schiappa, Austin Scott, Kimber Elayne Sprawl, Rachel Stern, Chiara Trentalange, Bob Walton, Chelsea Lee Williams, and Mare Winningham. In addition to direction by Conor McPherson, scenic and costume design is by Rae Smith, orchestrations, arrangements, and music supervision by Simon Hale, with additional arrangements by Simon Hale and Conor McPherson;, lighting design by Mark Henderson; sound design by Simon Baker; movement direction by Lucy Hind; and music direction by Marco Paguia.
Marc Kudisch plays Mr. Burke, a man who lost everything in the crash and is trying his best to get him and his family back on his feet. A veteran of 15 Broadway shows, Kudisch has three Tony nominations for 9 to 5, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and Thoroughly Modern Millie. He most recently appeared in The Great Society, F**king A, Hand to God and The Wayside Motor Inn. On television he plays Gus on Billions and Ty Rathbone on The Tick.
How did you first hear about Girl From The North Country?
Marc Kudisch: I did a presentation of the show at the Public Theater. My agents literally called me and said, “Okay. Kuddish, we have an offer on the table for a reading and you're doing it.” They had seen the show in London and then they sent me the script. Because he knew me, my agent, Matt, literally said, “Trust me. After you read this, you're going to understand.” And then I of course read the script. I thought, yes, I am doing this! At that presentation when we all sang “Tight Connection To My Heart," together for the first time, all of us were crying.
What qualities does Mr. Burke have that you love?
Marc Kudisch: What I love Is being opposite of Luba [Mason] and Todd [Almond], because it doesn't work without the family. And our family story is complicated and takes place in a period when things were very complicated. And the way that Connor writes is wildly unapologetic. The show is visceral, intelligent and brutal all at the same time. And the joy is not worrying about satisfying an audience with the surface results oriented with applause or laughter. We have a story to tell that connects with anyone who is American. You're on it for the ride. And how you choose to absorb the play we are offering is entirely up to you. And that is really Connor's approach to it.
When did you know you had to become an actor and performer?
Marc Kudisch: I was not a theater person until my senior year of high school. I was in the gifted program. The creative part of me was still finding itself. I was president of the Spanish club for two years. I had the second highest IQ in my elementary school. I tested to become a rocket scientist. I found theater in college. I found myself building a set at 3am when I should have been studying political theory and I didn’t care. I went to my political theory teacher who said, “You should be an actor. You don’t have the passion for this class like you do for theater.”
Do you remember one of the first shows you saw?
Marc Kudisch: The first Broadway-style show I saw was the national tour of Into the Woods. I'm from South Florida. It played in Fort Lauderdale where they started their tour. I remember watching it and I loved it. And at the end of act one, I was walking to the parking lot to get in my car and someone stopped me and said, “You didn't like the show?” I said, "I loved the show. It's great.” They said, “Why are you leaving?” I said, “Because it's over.” They said, “No, no, that's only act one.” And I said, “What?!!!” So I ran back in to catch act two. At the end of the show, for some reason the local orchestra sort of fell off. And so they had to stop the show. And then James Lapine and Stephen Sondheim walked on stage because they were there. And they apologized to the audience and thanked us for being there. I literally thought, I have to go to New York now.
And what was your first Broadway show that you were in?
Marc Kudisch: My first Broadway show was Chronicle of a Death Foretold by Graciela Daniele. I think it ran just a few performances. And to this day, it is still one of the favorite shows I've ever seen because it was a dance play. People have forgotten the language of dance the way it used to be done. And I got to work with her a bunch. So I love that piece and I always will.