Woody Sez: the words, music and spirit of Woody Guthrie – An ensemble cast of American roots music multi-instrumentalists prove that an unabiding passion for your subject matter can elevate a biographical piece to inspiring theatre. This is not an ordinary stringing together of songs, Mama-Mia-style, to tell a story. This production uses nearly 30 of Guthrie’s songs to bring his story to life and explain the foundations of his underlying themes and commitment to human rights. The show also uses Guthrie’s own words from radio broadcasts and his articles for The People’s World to get across his humour and intelligence.
The New-York-based Paul Lucas Productions present the show with the Melting Pot Theatre Company, a professional, not-for-profit theatre group that delves deep into American history and the events that shaped the nation. I can only guess that their current tour is a result of a successful UK debut at the Edinburgh Festival in 2007.
This is an understatedly talented ensemble cast, but special mention must go to David Lutken, an actor and musician whose connection to Woody goes back 20 years with Woody Guthrie Publications and history lessons for school children in the US. He takes up the challenge of narrating Woody’s story as well as bringing the man himself to life. He imparts the music and the tragic life of the man without over egging the performance. His sturdy back-up team were in fine voice, tackling fiddle, guitar, banjo, double bass and spoons to bring the songs to life.
The troupe received a standing ovation, not just for their joyful musical performance, but partly in thanks for honouring the subject matter and illuminating their passion for Guthrie and telling his tale in such a warm way.
Cheers for now, Beth