How Lisa made it to North Country just in time for Festival

One of the highlights of the Brisbane Festival is the staging of hit musical Girl From the North Country, continuing its worldwide success from West End to Broadway and now to Brisbane starring Australian favourite Lisa McCune.

Aug 25, 2022, updated Aug 29, 2022

McCune told InQueensland how bringing Elizabeth Laine to life on the Lyric Theatre stage in the musical is a part she unashamedly chased down.

“Look, for me, the journey began when I was sent it to have a look at The Old Vic version. I was in my sixth lockdown in Melbourne, and I watched it, and I got straight on the phone afterwards, and I said to my agent, “I really need to audition for this. I love it. I want it,” McCune said.

“And it’s a perfect fit with the Brisbane Festival. I’m excited about the Brisbane Festival – I’m so excited to be part of it.

“I think it’s actually being part of a bigger festival, and this show really does lend itself to that kind of landscape. It’s really exciting to hear what’s happening in Brisbane. It’s been a really tough time for Brisbane and New South Wales, and hopefully the arts will shine a little bit of goodness into people’s lives, which is what it’s there to do.”

She said the tone of Girl From the North Country was perfectly timed as audiences bravely come back to theatres, looking for hope in post pandemic times.

Lisa has been with the show the whole tour. She emphasised that while the musical features Bob Dylan’s music, it is not a “jukebox” musical, but rather a re-imagining of Bob Dylan’s songs in a way that people have never experienced before.

“I did an audition for Conor McPherson, who’s the Irish playwright who was given license to take Bob Dylan’s music and he could use whatever he wanted, and write a show using that music,” she said.

“And he chose to do it set in Duluth, Minnesota, post depression. It’s a cold time, it’s winter, around Thanksgiving, and the Laine family are about to lose their boarding house, they’re financially ruined. And it’s about the struggles of the people that come in and out of the boarding house, they’re all staying there because it’s a cheap place to stay. It’s about their loves, their loss, and trying to find a way forward.

“There’s a certain bleakness, a certain meanness to the story, and everybody’s afflicted with something, but yet there’s this incredible light that comes through almost the crumbling domain of this house. And they stop to find all of the goodness in humanity really.”

She said the orchestration of Bob Dylan’s music in what some may think is a somewhat incongruous setting, is what makes the musical so profound.

“It’s set to his wonderful music and there’s 20 songs or so, and they’ve all been orchestrated by Simon Hale, who just won a Tony Award, actually,” she said.

“And when you think about all the great music on Broadway – he won for this. He won for the way he’s re-orchestrated a lot of songs that people might know. My favourite is Tight Connection to My Heart, which is sung by Mike Porter in the show – I work with a lot of amazing singers. Let me tell you, the cast is sublime.”

The four-time Gold Logie award winner said she was thrilled to be reconnecting with live audience after the restrictions of lockdowns, and  she’s also looking forward to revisiting her favourite Brisbane haunts.

“We spent so much time there when I was shooting Sea Patrol and Reef Doctors, I think I was here for six, seven years back to back, and it was really special, and we know it’s so intimately,” she said.

“You know, Brisbane is a little bit like Adelaide. Melbourne and Sydney love their theatre, and we’ve got the big theatres there and it’s always chockablock with great musicals, but I always think that the festivals are always really interesting in Adelaide and Brisbane, as there’s so much going on.

“And Brisbane, during the Brisbane Festival, I think it’s just going to be a time of celebration, cultural celebration, celebrating the arts, and hopefully a little bit of a break for audiences from the not-so-happy times of pandemics and floods. And hopefully we can entertain people and let them forget for a minute.

“This is the last of our tour dates, and it’s been a wonderful journey, and I really hope that audiences will love it as much as we love doing it.

“I think that there’s so much about the arts that we always have to just care for it and make sure that it prospers because without it, it’s a scary place I think.”

Girl from The North Country is one of the most critically acclaimed multi-award winning productions of the 21st century.

Brisbane Festival Artistic Director Louise Bezzina said that following the success of the staging of Boy Swallows Universe in 2021, she was keen to present another large-scale theatre work for this Brisbane Festival.

“At times achingly beautiful and at others starkly haunting, I know our festival audiences will embrace this award-winning production,” Bezzina said.

The show starts on September 8 at the QPAC Lyric Theatre for a strictly limited season.


Local News Matters

We strive to deliver the best local independent coverage of the issues that matter to Queenslanders.

Copyright © 2024 InQueensland.
All rights reserved.
Privacy Policy