Seven years ago, Bob Dylan’s longtime manager Jeff Rosen sat down for a cup of tea in London with producer Tristan Baker and Steven Lappin (then creative director at Sony Music Television) to discuss a nascent idea: a Dylan musical. Rosen already had experience with one — Twyla Tharp’s The Times They Are A-Changin’, which debuted on Broadway in 2006 and ran for under a month. Still, a source close to Dylan’s team says there was openness to try again.
The result is Girl From the North Country, currently in previews at Broadway’s Belasco Theatre and opening March 5, following acclaimed runs in London (the Old Vic and West End theaters) and New York (the Public Theater). Award-winning Irish playwright Conor McPherson, who wrote the book, says he wasn’t immediately convinced it would be “a slam-dunk.” McPherson had never worked on a musical before — and wasn’t exactly a Dylan obsessive. “I was a little bit mystified,” he recalls. “[Dylan’s] music is so thoughtful and wide-ranging, it felt like such vast territory. I just thought, ‘I’m sure someone will do a good job on that, but I’m not sure I know how to.’”