'Woody Sez' brings Guthrie's iconic folk music to life with authenticity

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David Finch, left, Leenya Rideout, Helen Jean Russell and David M. Lutken in Woody Sez: The Life & Music of Woody Guthrie. -PHOTO: Roger Mastroianni

Music direct to your ears from the singers’ lips and from plucked strings — without electrical intervention — is crucial to the aura of naturalness that permeates Woody Sez. Amplification, if there is any for this Milwaukee Rep Stackner Cabaret revue, is so subtle as to be undetectable.

The natural sound fits as a crucial element in a show that posits Woody Guthrie, the iconic figure in American folk music, as a natural and even inevitable voice of the American masses in the first half of the 20th century.

David M. Lutken, the lanky, Texan co-creator and music director of the show, bears quite a resemblance to Guthrie. He doesn’t so much to impersonate Guthrie as represent him. Lutken drifts in and out of first and third person as he speaks Woody’s words and tells Woody’s story. Lutken also tells a little of his own story, including how he came under the spell of Guthrie’s music as a kid with his first guitar.

Lutken comes off as an easygoing Southern gentleman with a generous heart, putting the audience instantly at ease.

For the rest of this review and others by Tom Strini, visit striniwritesblogspot.com.

On stage

Woody Sez continues at The Milwaukee Rep’s Stackner Cabaret through March 9. Call 414-224-9490 or visit www.milwaukeerep.com. Cast members host free hootenannies in the bar adjacent to the Stackner following each Thursday night show. Bring a guitar, banjo, fiddle or instrument of choice and join the fun.