Girl from the North Country soulful masterpiece at QPAC



Girl from the North Country was such a powerful piece of theatre. A one-of-a-kind play with the intense and emotional music of the great musician Bob Dylan woven throughout. Set in the 1930s Depression era in small-town Duluth, Minnesota this story was a gorgeous tale of people from all different walks of life coming together to share their lives in an old boarding house.

The music of the legendary musician Bob Dylan played an integral part in the production. Not due to the lyrics matching the story but the melody matched the tone and feeling of the characters. It was as though every human sense had been opened for the first time as the cast transported the Brisbane audience to another time and place entirely.


Lisa McCune embodied Elizabeth Laine, who has dementia and was heartbreakingly tremendous in this role. She was witty and her singing voice was wonderous as she acted as the comic relief of the tragic play.


Christina O’Neill as the head-strong widow Mrs Neilsen soared to the sky with her incredible vocals and gave the audience chills with her expressive story arc.


Peter Kowitz personified Nick Laine, husband of Elizabeth and father of Marianne (Chemon Theys) and Gene (James Smith). Peter nailed the gravelly mid-west accent and grumpy but heartfelt tone of his character.


Chemon Theys played Marianne with such tenacity and passion being a strong black woman surrounded by mostly religious white folk including her parents who took her in when she was young. Her voice was phenomenal as her true spirit was revealed with her stunning vocals and she proudly stated she didn’t want to marry old Mr. Perry (Peter Carroll) just because she is pregnant.


James Smith was incredible as Nick and Elizabeth’s son Gene Laine, who relied on the safety net of his family instead of being proactive in earning a living. He was also pining for his old flame Katherine Draper (Elizabeth Hay). They sung a moving duet rendition of Dylan’s song ‘I want you’ about longing for each other and not being able to have one another.


Ellijah Williams was the ex. Boxer, Joe Scott and suddenly stumbled upon the Laine boarding house in the storm one night with insightful and nosy salesman Reverend Marlowe (Grant Piro). Ellijah brilliantly captured Joe’s essence of not wanting to cause any trouble or misunderstanding especially as an African American man. He met Marianne and was soon infatuated with her. Ellijah leads the powerful country-esque memorable song, ‘Hurricane.’


The Burke family had a tough time in the Depression and needed shelter during this time. Mr and Mrs Burke (Greg Stone and Helen Dallimore) and their son Elias (Blake Erickson) were accepted into the boarding house for a limited time.

The incredibly emotional circumstances surrounding their son’s mental state due to his learning disability created a perfect storm of unfortunate events. Blake Erikson heartbreakingly performed the powerful Bob Dylan classic ‘Duquesne Whistle.’ Helen Dallimore was a true star as she truly evoked what it is like being a mother and illustrated her new skills as a drummer.

Terence Crawford played the Laine family’s physician, Dr. Walker. Crawford was tasked with being the narrator and acted as the grounded force of hope and soulfulness in the piece.


The committed ensemble gave a breathtaking performance in this poignant production. The cast of gorgeous vocalists included Tony Black, Laurence Coy, Tony Cogin, Grace Driscoll, Samantha Morley and Liam Wigney. They opened the show with the iconic ‘Sign On the Window’, slayed the house down with ‘Girl from the North Country’ and made the audience shed a few emotive nostalgic tears as the performance concluded with the heart-pulling ‘Pressing On.’

Girl from the North Country was an inspired, deep, and thought-provoking theatre masterpiece at QPAC’s Lyric Theatre as part of the Brisbane Festival. It was peppered with iconic performances, soulful numbers, highlighting difficult relationships with the love of family and heart all through the lens of Bob Dylan’s life’s work.


All images supplied.