THE LIFE OF WOODY GUTHRIE, AN AMERICAN FOLK HERO, BRINGS THE DUST BOWL AND UNION ATHEMES FULL FORCE AND WILL KEEP YOUR FEET STOMPING
The fans of the Margaret Lesher Theatre are humming classic American Folk songs this spring as WOODY SEZ The Life and Music of Woody Guthrie closes the CenterReps stunning 52nd season. The music of this American Hero is now on the Walnut Creek stage through June 23rd. This journey through the life of Woody Guthrie – is told mostly through Woody’s writings, and songs, and is performed by a multi-talented powerhouse cast of actors, singers, and musicians – Darcie Deaville, David M. Lutken, Megan Loomis, and David Finch. The company plays multiple roles and instruments. CenterRep Artistic director Michael Butler says “this cast of Woody Sez brings some Jedi level performers to Walnut Creek. They have been on Broadway and toured the world staging this show, we are excited to have this company here to close our 2018 - 19 season.”
In its Song packed two hour show, we are introduced to 30 of Woody Guthrie’s songs. Guthrie wrote over 1,500 songs; many were political, some were the blues, including children’s songs. The gifted David M Lutken plays Woody and he is also the narrator as he explores the man's life. The story opens as we see Woody prepare for a live 1940’s Radio Broadcast, Lutken sings “Talkin New York City 1940” as the radio producer is shocked by his revolutionary lyrics. Woody’s life is covered from his birth in 1912 until his final days in 1967. The songs are all acoustic and well performed under the music direction Lutken who also help create the concept of the show.
Lutken is terrific and is a keen guitar player and has an ideal singing voice. His solo highlights include the first version of “This Land is Your Land,” “Dust Storm Disaster,” and “I Ain’t Got No Home.” It is the best of Guthrie’s well-known songs with monologues about Guthrie’s colorful and yet dark life growing up through the Depression and the dust storm. He watched his mother suffer from Huntington’s DIsease the same genetic neurological disorder that claimed his life at only 55. He was also marked “Red” in the MccCarthy red scare blacklisting of the 1950s, enduring so many personal tragedies. His work for the unions, his influence on his own children – Arlo and Nora Guthrie who kept his legacy alive as they become published and popular recording artists. Woody's music influenced a generation of folk singers like The Weavers, Bob Dylan and Peter, Paul & Mary - and what modern Rap is today.
To warm up the sold out opening night audience, the cast played some tunes before the show and in the lobby there is a bit of a Sunday jam at the end of that performance. Everyone is invited to bring their instruments to join in with the cast. Luke Cantarella’s visually earth tone set includes a landscape background and authentic pictures and paintings of Woody. The Margaret Lesher Theatre’s stage has a dust bowl feel to it. Jeffrey Meek provides that real feel to his costume design and each actor’s shoes have that “walk in” a 100 miles feel. The gifted David Finch plays various supporting characters that range from old friends, radio hosts, and the iconic Pete Seeger. He is a flawless actor and shows his musical versatility playing the jaw harp, guitar, and singing in the show. His solo performance of “Talkin’ Dust Bowl” was fantastic. The songs “I Ride an Old Paint” and “Vigilante Man” show off the excellent timing between Lutken and Finch.
The fantastic Darcie Deaville plays many roles, she also is a graceful singer and is a full throttle fiddler and guitarist. Her performances of “The Ballad of Tom Joad” and “Talking Merchant Marine” are showstoppers. The skillful Megan Loomis plays most of the female roles in the show, but it’s her performance as Woody’s mother is heart warming. In the second act after she had died Woody speaks to her when his own health starts to diminish. WOODY SEZ: The Life and Music of Woody Guthrie is filled with polished music and performances.
Guthrie’s songs are more meaningful and timeless in our current Trump era. It would be impressive to see a younger audience in the house to experience WOODY. The CenterRep makes it easy to snag tickets to this concert like show. This is the best evening of theatre to close the Reps season. Up next as their new 53rd season launches this fall is MURDER FOR TWO a musical that opens August 30th. PRIDE AND PREJUDICE opens March 27th and a unannounced Tony winning musical will close out the season in May of 2020. But in the meantime bring your own instrument to jam with the cast of WOODY SEZ, and enjoy some amazing iconic American Music that changed a generation.
CENTER REP PRESENTS
Woody Sez: The Life & Music of Woody Guthrie
Devised By David M. Lutken* with Nick Corley^ and Darcie Deaville, Helen J. Russell & Andy Teirstein
Directed By Nick Corley Musical Direction By David M. Lutken*
Darcie Deaville, David Finch*, David M. Lutken*, and Megan Loomis*
MUST CLOSE JUNE 23rd
Running time:two hours with one 15 minute intermission
Center REPertory Company
1601 Civic Drive in Walnut Creek
TICKETS CenterREP.org or call 925.943.7469
LCA Ticket Office at 1601 Civic Drive or the Ticket
SUNDAY – June 2, 9 and 23rd 2:30PM –
Hootenanny with cast members after the show. Bring an instrument
A FREE HOOTENANNY will be held following each Sunday matinee at 4:45PM. Leading the Hootenanny will be David M. Lutken*, who plays the title role. Other cast members will also be joining the informal unamplified jam session. The event is admission-free, open to all, and invites everyone to bring an instrument, sing along, or clap to the rhythms and music!