- We are hooked in the first five minutes with the “Woody
Sez” production at the Stackner Cabaret. As soon as David M.
Lutken, who plays Woody, introduces himself to us, we
immediately respond positively to him, and as the show goes
on, we only admire and enjoy him more. He recently received
the Helen Hayes award for best lead actor, a well-deserved
honor, for his role in this piece.
of four multi-talented musicians, with their diversity and
range, captures our souls and our hearts, with their
enthusiasm, their expertise (where they make the difficult
look easy) and their message. Woody Guthrie comes alive again,
and we realize that the social injustices he wrote and sang
about are still prevalent and relevant.
He strongly influenced other folk singers who followed
him, such as Pete Seeger, Bob Dylan, and his own son Arlo.
some reviled his social criticism, for there will always be
those who see any criticism of America as anti-patriotic, even
communistic, many supported the sentiments he messaged through
very pro-union because he wanted the powerless to balance out
the stranglehold of the rich and influential; he was critical
of the government for often
being oblivious and not reaching out enough in times of
crisis; he was very sympathetic toward children as the victims
of many of society’s ills; he was pro-war because of the
brutality of fascism, serving himself for several years in the
Merchant Marines and the Army during WWII.
He wrote prolifically and performed in many climes and
venues. He traveled a lot and seemed driven by his desire to
be a spokesman for the less fortunate among us.
He is best
known for his song, “This Land is Your Land,” written and
first performed in 1940. Since then, it has become an icon for
a certain genre of folk music. He traveled the country, which
might account for his failed three marriages. In 1952, at the
age of 40, he was diagnosed with Huntington’s Chorea, a
debilitating disease, which pretty much ended his career as a
singer, but his songs continued to gain popularity, and some
of his writings were published. He was revered in the music
world and continued to be visited by many until his death in
1967 at the age of 55.
members of the cast can sing and play several instruments -
harmonicas, mandolins, fiddles, bass, and guitars. Separately
or together, they make
toe-tapping, energized music.
Russell plays bass and sings like an angel. Leenya
Rideout is a mean fiddler and also adept at the
mandolin. David Finch brings a strong comic sense to his role
as well as multiple musical skills. The four performers pair
off in various configurations for a nice mix.
Woody has the most solos. His most exceptional ones include
“Why Do You Stand There in the Rain,” “Dust Storm
Disaster,” and “I Ain’t Got No Home.” Finch’s most
noteworthy numbers are “JackHammer John,” and “Goin Down
that Road Feelin Bad,” where he collaborates with Russell
ensemble numbers include “This Train is Bound for Glory,”
“Internationale,” “Them Old Cotton Fields Back Home”
and, of course, “This Land is Your Land.”
highly entertained and inspired. “Woody Sez: The Life and
Music of Woody Guthrie,” directed by Nick Corley and David
Lutken, runs into March with many performances per week. The
bonus of a hootenanny is offered after the show every Thursday
evening, so bring your instruments and join this quartet of
talents for a rousing good time.
Sez: The Life and Music of Woody Guthrie” runs through March
9 at the Stackner Cabaret Theatre, located on the second floor
of the Intercontinental Hotel building, 108 E. Well St.,
Milwaukee. For show times and tickets, call 414-291-9490 or
visit their website at www.milwaukeerep.com.