ADVERTISING AT CURTAINUP
Short Term Listings
BOOKS and CDs
LETTERS TO EDITOR
Writing for Us
A CurtainUp London Review
The musical is rich in biographical detail recording that Woody was born in Okemah, Okfuskee County, Oklahoma and named after Woodrow Wilson the then Democratic Party Governor of New Jersey. Woody's mother suffered from the genetic, neurological disorder Huntington's Disease which he inherited.
Devised by performer David Lutken and director Nick Corley, the songs lend themselves to a lucid story because they describe Guthrie's reactions to his life and times. We hear that when working for radio station in New York he was told to "sing something nice" instead of the political lyrics he had written. Lutken talks us through most of the often jokey narrative playing a guitar with the label "This Machine Kills Fascists" as Woody himself did.
Darcie Deaville plays mandolin and fiddle as well as singing and Helen Jane Russell is most often seen on the double bass although they both play several other instruments. Curly haired Andy Teirstein plays the violin, guitar but his accomplished rendering on the spoons proves very popular with the audience.
Some of the best known songs — "This Land Is Your Land", "This Train Is Bound for Glory" and "Pastures of Plenty" were his own compositions but may have used tunes based on negro spirituals. Guthrie also contributed to the archive of American folk song with recordings of other people's songs he made in the early 1940s ensuring this heritage was available in perpetuity.
The show doesn't just present Guthrie's songs but his political philosophy which was that of a man committed to justice and human rights. "I Ain't Got No Home" from Darcie and David leaves us in doubt as to who the culprit is when the words tell us, "Mr Banker came and took our farm away." The blend of meaningful words and toe tapping tunes, allow the exciting instrumentals we associate with blue grass music to drive the music overflows with feel good factor. Andy's rendition of "Jackhammer John" is nothing less than rousing. There is little choreography apart from David's heel shuffle and action as instruments are exchanged but somehow the visuals do not tire with a backdrop of photographs of Woody and his family and wooden crates to hold the spare musical instruments.
Woody Sez may take a while for word of mouth to make sure it reaches its audience: as people who love folk music do not usually flock to West End musicals but to concerts and pubs and festivals. However if they miss Woody Sez they will be missing one of the best and friendliest celebrations of this type of music, beautifully sung and expertly played.
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
Click image to buy.