Woody Sez

 

The Life & Music of Woody Guthrienorthlight theatre

Devised by David M. Lutken with Nick Corley and

Darcie Deaville, Helen Jean Russell, and Andy Teirstein

Directed by Nick Corley

At Northlight Theatre,  Skokie

As I went walking, I saw a sign there,
And on the sign there, It said “no trespassing.”
But on the other side, it didn’t say nothing!
That side was made for you and me.
 
In the squares of the city, In the shadow of a steeple;
By the relief office, I’d seen my people.
As they stood there hungry, I stood there asking,
Is this land made for you and me?

-“This Land is Your Land” by Woody Guthrie

“Some day people are going to wake up to the fact that Woody Guthrie and the ten thousand songs that leap and tumble off the strings of his music box are a national possession like Yellowstone and Yosemite, and part of the best stuff this country has to show the world.” – LaBorie, Tim. Woody Guthrie biography.

Terrific musicals play stirring tribute to Woody Guthrie

Kudos to BJ Jones for having the gumption to bring Woody Sez to Northlight theatre in Skokie since  this is a tribute to the father of American folk music in the 1930-40-50’s.  Led by David M. Lutken, Woody Sez features four of the finest acoustical string  folk musicians on earth. From Lutken’s fabulous guitar work to Darcie Deaville’s fiddle and mandolin playing to Helen Jean Russell’s bass, fiddle and guitar work to David Finch’s versatile playing guitar, fiddle, banjo and harmonica, etc., Wood Sez is a musical treat of the first order. Woody Sez sounds good even without Woody’s searing lyrics.  These four lovingly present the life and music of the last American troubadour.

northlight theatre

Woody Guthrie (1912-1967) was wondering social activists, musician and song writer who chronicled the life, troubles, and issues affecting the common man in the 1930-40- 50’s throughout America. Woody write a column (Woody Sez) for socialist/communist newspapers, he championed labor unions and  worked for rights for all oppressed people. His main vehicle for progressive social change was through his songs. He used folk traditions as his “hillbilly perspective” as his “hobo advocate” to further progressive causes as he struggled to give a voice to the oppressed in America. With a wondering spirit, Woody tirelessly traveled throughout rural America singing songs to invigorate the struggling common folk. During his more than 30 years of wondering the hinterlands, Woody composes over 1600 songs mostly in the old-time folk traditions.  He, with Peter Seeger and Huddie “Lead Belly” Ledbetter led the revival of folk music in the late 1940-50’s.Such songwriters as Bob Dylan, Phil Ochs, Bruce Springsteen, John Mellencamp, Pete Seeger, Joe Strummer, Billy Bragg, Jeff Tweedy and Tom Paxton have acknowledged Guthrie as a major influence.

woody guthrie

Woody Sex is a fast-paced, richly sung and expertly played glimpse into the life of Woody Guthrie. For us who know about Woody and for those unfamiliar (shame on you) with Woody Guthrie, this show has new insights into his life. We learn that his mother was a singer who influenced Woody as an infant. We also learn the hard times his family suffered from mother’s pyromania. Woody started street singing in Oklahoma at age seven. His natural discontent led him to establish a wondering spirit in search of harmony. It was a lifelong pursuit.

Woody’s songs were his fuel; he lived to write and sing his songs to inspire and chronicle the common people. “I am out to sing songs that will prove to you that this is your world…”  He sure did that.  Woody Sez contains over 30 Guthrie songs including such famous tunes as “This Train is Bound for Glory, ” “The Ballad of Tom Joad, ” “Oklahoma Hills,” “Union Maid,” “Them Old Cottonfields Back Home” and, of course, “This Land is your Land” which Woody wrote in protest of Irving Berlin’s “God Bless America.” This musical portrait, featuring Woody’s stirring ballads and joyous anthems, celebrates the colorful life and rich musical legacy of America’s great folk troubadour.  The four performers , each had their moments to sparkle,  paid  an ode to Woody that was a musical treat- and- it was a lesson to all aspiring progressives that the need to give voice to the oppressed is still present in 21st Century America. Maybe they could use Woody Guthrie’s song to fuel their cause?

Get to Northlight Theatre to learn about and enjoy the inspiring folk music of a true American legend – Woody Guthrie. Take a child to experience Woody Sez – they’ll thank you later.

Highly Recommended

Tom Williams

Talk theatre in Chicago podcast

Date Reviewed: September 21, 2012

For more info checkout the Woody Sez page at theatreinchicago.com

At Northlight Theatre, 9501 N. Skokie Blvd., Skokie, IL,  call 847-679-9501, www.northlight.org, tickets $25 – $54, Tuesdays at 7:30 pm, Wednesdays at 1 & 7:30 pm, Thursdays at 7:30 pm, Fridays at 8 pm, Saturdays at 2:30 & 8 pm, Sundays at 2:30 & 7 pm, running time is 90 minutes without intermission, through October 21, 2012