It may have just closed at The Old Vic, where it made its world premiere, but Conor McPherson’s play Girl from the North Country will be making a return to London in December with a West End run at the Noel Coward Theatre. An original cast recording has also been released, meaning we can Simon Hale’s excellent reimagining of some of Bob Dylan’s biggest hits, performed by the equally brilliant cast.
While we wait for the show to return, here are five of our favourite moments from the album, which is available now.
"Sign on the Window"
The opening number of the musical does a brilliant job of introducing the country-folk vibe of Simon Hale’s orchestrations. Its high-pitched violin and steel guitar accompany the first of many characters at the Duluth guesthouse we’re introduced to. It’s a gentle tune which sets the tone for the rest of the album, what the songs will sound like, and the note-perfect and sometimes eerie vocals on the record.
"I Want You"
One of the most passionate scenes of Girl from the North Country comes in this duet between Gene (Sam Reid) and Katherine (Claudia Jolly). Reid’s deep southern accent is complimented wonderfully by Jolly’s passionate voice. Starting with simply a piano, this track builds and builds until we’re left with the pair’s haunting voices repeat the same words over and over, first loudly, then so softly they’re almost inaudible. A great moment on the album.
"Like A Rolling Stone/To Make You Feel My Love"
Shirley Henderson is undoubtably one of the stars of the stage production, and her unique, soft voice is given a chance to shine here in one of Dylan’s best-loved tracks. As the tambourine and drums kick in, it becomes one of the most uplifting moments of the show. It also showcases Hale’s great ability to blend two or more songs together, as the refrain transitions the track into “To Make You Feel Me Love”. Heavenly.
"Slow Train Coming/License to Kill"
It may be a slow train, but this song certainly picks up the pace. If you don’t find yourself tapping along to the beat, you’ll certainly find it difficult not to join in with Arinzé Kene’s brilliant lead vocals, or the catchy swooping backing vocals. At times, it has a cool disco-like vibe, other times it feels like a campfire singalong, but it’s certainly smooth all the way throughout.
Henderson shines again as the album comes to a close with this evocative acoustic recording of “Forever Young”. Originally written as a lullaby to Dylan's eldest son Jesse, it feels as if Henderson’s character Elizabeth Laine is leaving the audience with a number parting wishes to send them into the night with: "May God bless and keep you always / May your wishes all come true". A touching ending.