By RITA CHARLESTON
For 21st Century Media
“Woody Sez: The Life and Music of Woody Guthrie,” a biographical review based on the famous American folk singer’s own words, writings and songs, comes to People’s Light & Theatre May 7-25.
“This show is about a man and his songs,” said co-creator David M. Lutken, who also portrays the folksy bard himself. The other co-creator Nick Crowley directs a talented ensemble of actors, who collectively play more than 30 of Guthrie’s songs on acoustic instruments ranging from guitar, violin, autoharp, banjo, harmonica and spoons.
The variety of songs showcased in this production highlight Guthrie’s unique ability to touch on world-wide and personal events, and features many of his hits including “Riding My Car” and “This Train is Bound for Glory,” as well as his more activist-inspired songs like “Vigilante Man” and “The Ballad of Tom Joad.”
Although Lutken, who originally comes from Texas, never met Guthrie, he was introduced to his songs when he was quite young. “My teacher in nursery school played his music and that’s where I would not only hear it, but begin to sing it at the top of my four-year-old lungs.”
And as he grew up, Lutken discovered that others actually liked to hear him, sing, especially when he got to college. “As I got older I wound up following the path of least resistance. When I discovered in college that people would pay me to play and sing, that’s what I began to do.”
When he graduated from Duke University 1979, he began to move around the country playing music, and eventually found himself on the other side of the pond, where people enjoyed his music just as much as they did here. That’s when he decided to study more. Lutken studied in London at the Royal School of Church Music, the Royal College of Music, and the Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Arts in London, and quickly began finding work in theatrical productions that required actors who could play instruments and sing as well as act.
Today, having appeared in many productions at many venues, Lutken enjoys a varied career as both a musician and an actor.
Having developed various folk music/American history lessons for school children and young adults, he created a touring show, “Woody Sez,” which had its premiere at the Edinburgh Festival in 2007. “And over the next three years that show has expanded into this two-act show which I perform around the world,” Lutken said.
“It’s interesting to me that many people in America know Woody Guthrie, his songs, and his son Arlo. But what’s really interesting is the fact that in England and Scotland, people know him very well, and his music is wildly popular,” Lutken said.
The show has traveled all over the world presenting this unique tale of America’s folk hero, who used the power of his voice to speak out for those without the power to do so.
“We’ve even been to China recently where nobody knew who Woody Guthrie was but we had a lot of fun because music is one of those things that’s universal in its ability to communicate,” Lutken concludes. “And it was no different in China where everyone enjoyed the show immensely.”
IF YOU GO
WHAT: “Woody Sez: The Life and Music of Woody Guthrie”
WHERE: People’s Light & Theatre, 39 Conestoga Road in Malvern.
WHEN: May 7-25.
INFO. For tickets call (610) 644-3500 or visit PeoplesLight.org.