Interview: Jennifer Blood – The Girl From The North Country

The cast of the GIRL FROM THE NORTH COUNTRY North American tour (photo by Evan Zimmerman for MurphyMade)

The cast of the GIRL FROM THE NORTH COUNTRY North American tour (photo by Evan Zimmerman for MurphyMade)

The Girl From The North Country
Paramount Theatre
June 25 – 30, 2024 get tickets and more info here.

The Girl From the North Country is a new musical that uses the music of Bob Dylan to tell the story. Using new orchestrations and arrangements of classic songs, the show is not your typical juke-box musical, according to Jennifer Blood – who plays one of the major characters of the show.

Eric Andrews-Katz: Who were your earliest influences in becoming a performer?
Jennifer Blood: I love this question! My family and parents were very influential. My parents did community theatre, and my grandparents did community theatre at this theatre in New Jersey, that’s over 100 years old. My grandparents were one of the first people to be involved with that theatre. On the other side of my family, the grandparents were involved in church, and they did shows and theatre as well. I went to the theatre with both sets of grandparents, so when any show called for “a kid”, I was the one they put on stage.

Andrews-Katz: What was the show that gave you the ‘theatre bug’?
Blood: I grew up watching my family do so many shows. I remember, at age eight or maybe younger, watching them do Chicago. I loved it! The first Broadway show I saw was CATS. It has such a special place in my heart because I remember sitting in the mezzanine, and seeing a cat standing there, on one leg – in the mezzanine! I remember being in such awe of that. I didn’t want to go into theatre until I was in high school. That’s when I got more serious about it. My school did Cabaret and Our Town. That was all I needed. Our Town is still one. Of my favorite plays, and this one (Girl From The North Country) has echoes of Our Town as well.

Andrews-Katz: You’ve been on Broadway in several shows. Which do you prefer performing in, lighter hearted musicals (Matilda, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder) or the more serious ones (Violet)?
Blood: I prefer to have a balance in my life. If I had to choose, I’d pick one of the more serious shows. This show (Girl From North Country) is more serious, although my character has a lot of the comedic moments. It’s nice to have a balance in your career.

Andrews-Katz: What was your biggest challenge to overcome when starting on your Broadway career?
Blood: It took me a while to overcome some of my challenges. My first Broadway show (Violet) was 10 years ago, and the auditioning was the hardest thing for me over the years. There were so many roles I felt I got close to getting, and then got so nervous. You never know why or why not you didn’t get a role, but I felt it was my nerves that killed me. It was the hardest thing that I had to get over. It’s still a challenge. To overcome it, I did a lot of visualization and preparation – that’s the key! It is also about the mindset and trying to get detached from the process, to setting intentions of what I can and cannot control. Matilda was such a case. I was on tour with the show before going into the Broadway show. My agent was so happy when I got the call back. I got so nervous when I went in, that I forgot the words. I remember leaving that audition and when I was asked about it later, I started to cry. The day spiraled from there and went right downhill. The next day, I was told I got the job. I never thought I’d get my current job, so you have to go into the audition with a positive mindset.

Andrews-Katz: What is the storyline of Girl From the North Country?
Blood: It’s set in a boarding house, in Minnesota (where Bob Dylan is from, but he is not a part of the show) in the 1930’s, Depression Era. Everyone in the house is struggling with something, and the house is a place where everyone is accepted and welcomed. They exist together no matter what their backgrounds. The family that runs it is the “Laine” family. My character used to run the house but her husband runs it because Elizabeth is in the early onset of dementia.

Andrews-Katz: You play the character of “Elizabeth”. How are you similar to your character, and how are you different?
Blood: She’s crazy. And funny. The most important thing to her are her kids. She is still in a place that she knows she’s losing her mind, and if she could do anything it would be to set her kids up to be ok and have a good life, without her. That’s certainly how I would feel if I was losing my mind; what can I leave my kids? What is my legacy? She’s mischievous and so Ami. It’s interesting to think about. I’ve never gone through anything like she does, but dealing with anxiety and nerves is frightening enough, and I’ve done that. I can relate to that kind of a scary level. My family has dementia within it, and it is very sad to witness.

Andrews-Katz: How would you say the music of Bob Dylan affects the story of Girl From the North Country?
Blood: The music in the play comes together in a way that is unlike anything I’ve seen. It’s definitely NOT your typical jukebox musical. Fans will hear the music in a new way, and those not familiar with it will hear the poetry and beauty of Dylan’s music and lyrics. When I read the script, I was confused as to how these songs propelled the story forward – it’s very different from Oklahoma, or even Mamma Mia!. When I first sat in on the rehearsals, I suddenly got it! The scenes are the vinegar and the songs are the honey. The scenes drive the show forward, but it comes to a stop when a song appears. Then it becomes a glorious musical moment. It’s a feeling or expression of feelings, for a moment. None of it is literal, but it’s beautiful and powerful. There’s something about it because there really is nothing else like it.

Andrews-Katz: Will fans of Bob Dylan like the new arrangements of the show?
Blood: I think they will. It’s so beautiful. Dylan fans will appreciate it. There are so many Dylan songs, and so many interpretations of them. He wrote all of these songs that we all know, but most of us know the cover versions. These are beautiful interpretations. Simon Hill won the Tony for the arrangements.

Andrews-Katz: How do those not familiar with Bob Dylon’s music identify with the songs?
Blood: I think the music is so beautiful. I didn’t know a lot of these songs when I first came into the show. They are so beautiful. I think the audience will get a full appreciate for the poetry in the music and lyrics.

Andrews-Katz: If you could play any role regardless of limitations – i.e. gender, race… – what role would it be and why that role?
Blood: So many! I really want to do “What the Constitution Means to Me” and play ‘Heidi’. The role I really want to play is ‘Harold Hill’ from The Music Man. The last time I went into the role of Marion, I told them how much I really want to be Harold Hill. If nothing else, just to sing “Trouble!” It’s such a fun role!

The Girl From The North Country is about a boarding house in Minnesota, during the Depression of the 1930’s. The people staying there may not have much, but what they have they share; their sorrows, their joys, and their secrets.

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Eric Andrews-Katz

Eric Andrews-Katz

Eric Andrews-Katz has short stories included in over 10 anthologies. He is the author of the Agent Buck 98 Series (“The Jesus Injection” and “Balls & Chain”), and the author of the Greek myth series beginning with the novel TARTARUS. He has conducted celebrity interviews with some of the biggest and best names on Broadway, Hollywood and in literature. He can be found at: http://www.EricAndrewsKatz.com

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