Conor McPherson's Girl from the North Countryhas enjoyed quite a storied history on the London stage. Not only does this gentle and yet devastating musical incorporate some of the greatest hits of one Bob Dylan into its narrative, it also transports the audience to a bygone era; to 1934 Duluth, Minnesota (Dylan's hometown) in the midst of the Great Depression to be exact. And it all began at the Old Vic in July 2017 under the direction of McPherson himself.
The critical response to this anti-hero of the jukebox musical genre was so positive, in fact, that the production promptly received a West End transfer and began a limited 12-week run at the Noel Coward Theatre from December 2017 with the majority of the Old Vic cast reprising their respective roles. It would go on to be blessed with five Olivier Award nominations in 2018 (including 'Best New Musical') and original cast members Shirley Henderson and Sheila Atim would both take home the awards for 'Best Actress in a Musical' and 'Best Actress in a Supporting Role in a Musical,' respectively. Of course, it was only a matter of time before the American-centric musical would celebrate its New York premiere with a new American cast debuting at the Public Theater in autumn 2018, ahead of a Broadway transfer set to begin performances at the Belasco Theatre on 7 February 2020.
Back on these shores, Girl from the North Country can currently be seen in a special encore West End engagement at the Gielgud Theatre (closing on 1 February) with a brand new cast that came together for the musical's Canadian premiere in Toronto last autumn.
In celebration of the musical's stellar achievements on the London stage, as its West End chapter comes to an end and a new Broadway chapter begins, we've decided to dedicate this month's edition of 5 Questions from Over the Pond to Girl from the North Country. We've paired up the two gifted actors who portray Mrs. Nielsen in London (Rachel John) and New York (Jeannette Bayardelle), and it just so happens that these ladies previously collaborated on a music video, offering their beautiful interpretation of one of the show's well-known numbers, "Make You Feel My Love." Check it out...
Take it away, ladies...
1. Jeannette: Were you a Bob Dylan fan before being cast in Girl From The North Country?
Rachel: Before being cast in the show, I knew some of the Bob Dylan classics, but I wouldn’t say I knew a lot about his music. I remember my Mum playing ‘Blowing in the Wind’ in the house.
2. Jeannette: What was your audition process like for the show?
Rachel: I really enjoyed the audition process. The room was friendly and relaxed. It was lovely to read some scenes and sing through some material. I had the opportunity to discuss the character with the director, Connor [McPherson], and this really sparked my interest.
3. Jeannette: What do you like most about playing Mrs. Neilsen?
Rachel: I love her journey. It is interesting and challenging to walk in her shoes. I most enjoy being able to express her angst through “True Love”. It is freeing to be able to show her heart wide open and her truth laid bare. It is one of my favourite moments.
4. Jeannette: Do you have any other projects on the horizon?
Rachel: I have enjoyed song-writing and getting back in the studio and cannot wait to see where that takes me.
5. Jeannette: Who inspires you?
Rachel: My mother inspires me. She is a formidable woman. Her journey from Trinidad to London in her twenties, and her work in the NHS for over 40 years, showed me the value of faith, hard work and tenacity.
Check out West End star Rachel John's 5 questions for Broadway's Jeannette Bayardelle on our New York Theatre Guide sister site here!