Woody Guthrie was probably the first protest singer of modern times and a key figure in American folk music with a story ripe for telling. I wasn’t convinced this type of show (normally called the ‘jukebox musical’ but that seems wholly inappropriate here) would do it justice, but it does a lot more than that.
With a simple but evocative set and just four unamplified singers / multi-instrumenalists, the music is left to do its job. Though I knew of Guthrie, I can’t say I was very familiar with more than a few of his iconic songs, but here 30 of them (plus The Internationale; compulsory in telling any leftie’s story) are interwoven with the life of a fascinating man who was virtually a one man opposition in his homeland during much of his lifetime.
The show is anchored by the hugely talented David M Lutken who, not content with devising it, does almost all of the storytelling and a lot of the singing and instrumental work. He’s ably assisted by Helen J Russell (gorgeous voice and fine double bass playing), Andy Teirstein (who seemed a little hoarse on the night we went) and understudy Ruth Clarke-Irons who, for a girl from South Wales, makes a very believable American folkie!
With a wholesomeness that is mandatory with anything that pairs America with Folk, it could so easily have become pastiche like that hysterical Christopher Guest film ‘A Mighty Wind’, but its actually a charming, moving, insightful and thoroughly enjoyable homage. A liking of Americana and folk / roots music probably helps, but I actually think you’d enjoy this if you were a complete newcomer. Lovely. - Gareth James
31 Mar 11
I'm a very experienced theatre goer who normally finds himself praying for the final curtain so i can get to the bar. This show, however, was captivating; warm, humble and comforting yet informative, inspiring and distinctly touching. It's the first time in ages i've been reluctant to get out of my seat!
There's nothing 'showy' or superficial about this production. The performers engage effortlessly with their material and communicate the songs and narrative with a natural, leisurely style that is so easy to get involved in. The leading man is exceptional; I could have watched him perform all week...great in all the obvious ways but he also had an emotional depth which made the tragic moments resoundingly poignant.
Perhaps most important, for someone who knew next to nothing about the subject, i went straight out and bought a few Woody Guthrie CD's as well as his book. I would imagine that this is the biggest compliment of all... - David Beck
18 Mar 11
Forget the other bio-shows, which are just an excuse for actors to pretend to be rock or pop stars. This is the real thing - 4 superbly talented musicians/actors/singers who re-create the complete sense of America during the Dustbowl and Depression using the songs and stories of Woody Guthrie. Individually, the cast are outstanding and collectively they are simply magnificent. The show is simply but effectively staged and is perfectly suited to the intimate Arts Theatre. See it before it disappears. - Gary Vaux
15 Feb 11
i live in france and managed to catch woody sez on a trip to london. it was the wednesday matinee and it turned out eventful indeed. we(i wife and daughter, all old woody fans) found the production and performances top class. it was funny, entertaining and moving. andy terstein was hoarse, but the way the cast supported each other made up for that. the skill of the players on multi instruments was outstanding. in the middle of the third last song,"riding in my car" helen jean russell collapsed on stage, end of show. the management decently offerred new tickets for another performance. damien davey - damien davey
23 Jan 11
I live in the north of the Uk and would love to see this show, are you going on tour with this show, and is there any chance of David making an album of Guthrie songs. I heard him on radio4 and he was superb. - Lesley Halfpenny
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