Being named after a President might be daunting for a baby boy, but if your moniker is Woodrow Wilson Guthrie you are able to strive for perfection and then some. Your life has to be meaningful and special, even if it means walking from one end of the country to the other. When you boast about making a joyful noise unto the Lord, Woody did so with his treasure trove of 3000 songs, novels, short stories, poems, oil paintings, political cartoons, children’s books and sketches of everyday life. He is considered one of America’s greatest songwriters and cultural icons and you have the privilege of making his unique acquaintance at the Westport Country Playhouse until January 20 in “Woody Sez,” a musical portrait devised and starring David M. Lutken.
Woody Guthrie wrote folk tunes about his growing up years in Oklahoma’s Dust Bowl, political, children’s, songs of wanderlust and traveling, songs of peace and against war, social justice and even songs with a Jewish flavor. None of his verses is more well known than “This Land Is Your Land,” that he penned in 1940, considered one of folk music’s most famous tunes. Even that was a protest against the sentiment he heard in Irving Berlin’s “God Bless America.”
The team of David M. Lutken and Nick Corley gets full credit for this production which they conceived together. Lutken stars as the prosaic philosophizing guitar playing guy who was compelled to ramble across the country and write about all he saw and all the people he met along the way. Nick Corley sets his hand to directing this impassioned yet humble tale, of a man and the music he had to make.
Guthrie was a social commentator, a radical with an advocacy for truth, who believed “all you can write is all you can see.” He has been described as “a three chord picker with a poet’s brain” and his tale has been brought to 65 cities, thanks to David Lutken and his comrades on fiddle, bass, guitar, banjo, harmonica and more, Katie Barton, David Finch and Leenya Rideout.
Think of Woody Guthrie as an amalgam of Will Rogers and Pete Seeger, a man filled with words and sentiments which he put into poems, plays, letters, a newspaper column called “Woody Sez,” song lyrics as well as novels and artwork. He suffered many tragic losses in his life as well as great happiness. They translated into his writings. As Woody says himself, “There’s a feeling in music and it carries you back down the road you have traveled and makes you travel it again. Sometimes when I hear music I think back over my days – and a feeling that is fifty-fifty joy and pain swells like clouds taking all kinds of shapes in my mind.”
Some highlights include “This Train Is Bound for Glory,” “Jack Hammer Blues,” “Sinking of the Reuben James,” “The Ballad of Tom Joad,” “Riding In My Car,” and, of course, “This Land Is Your Land.”
For tickets ($35, 45, and 50), call the Westport Country Playhouse, 25 Powers Court, Westport at 888-927-7529 or 203-227-4177. Performances are Tuesday at 7 p.m., Wednesday at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m., Thursday and Friday at 8 p.m.and Saturday at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m.,
Come meet this home spun, down home country boy named after our 28th president, with his guitar and his friends in this special and moving tribute to the Oklahoma Troubadour. They are all bound for glory.