Ends Jul 23

Woody Sez: The Life & Music of Woody Guthrie

Members say: Entertaining, Great singing, Relevant, Absorbing, Delightful
21 reviews
23 reviews

Irish Repertory Theatre presents a toe-tapping musical exploration of the fascinating, beautiful, and sometimes tragic life of American folk legend Woody Guthrie.

... Read more

Performing classics such as 'This Land Is Your Land' and 'So Long, It’s Been Good to Know Yuh,' four actor/musicians bring to life the many people who formed the fabric of Guthrie's story. Not only was he a seminal influence on Bob Dylan and Joan Baez, he also inspired generations of Irish folk singers like the Clancy Brothers and Christy Moore. His songs may have told the stories of the disenfranchised in the Dust Bowl, but his recurrent themes speak of famine, workers’ rights, and emigrant strife. His legacy defined an American era of social consciousness and political expression that is alive and palpable today.


Cast & Creatives (13)

Reviews (44)

See: Critics' Reviews | Members' Reviews
Avg Score

The New York Times

"This is a show that favors breadth over biographical detail, and there’s a lot to cover, especially when you consider the snippets of more than 40 songs in about two hours. But the exhilarating 'Woody Sez,' a fine balm for a summer’s night, moves at a brisk and polished pace...Mr. Lutken’s Guthrie avoids aw-shucks sentimentality; Mr. Teirstein demonstrates remarkable instrumental versatility; and the sparkling Ms. Loomis mugs winningly as she takes a fiddle solo." Full Review

Lighting & Sound America

"An inspired choice for this fraught political moment...'Woody Sez' is a poignant, frequently stirring account of a life spent fighting the good fight...Lutken, a first-rate musician and singer, puts over the numbers with brio, and he is aided by an equally gifted company...Corley's direction ensures that the songs and narrative are woven together with the seamlessness and homespun purity of an authentic country quilt." Full Review

Theatre's Leiter Side

“If you're not sure who Woody Guthrie was and what he accomplished and stood for, I suggest you hop an MTA boxcar over to the Irish Rep…where 'Woody Sez,' an excellent jukebox bio-musical about his life, is being enacted by a delightful quartet of multitalented singer-musicians. I have no idea of what the Irish connection is…but it will take only a few minutes before you stop wondering about it and give yourself over to the joys of top-notch musicianship and homespun biographical storytelling.” Full Review

The Huffington Post

“The legendary songwriter’s story is told with, of course, the expected folk songs delivered in rousing arrangements…Yes, ‘Woody Sez’ is corny, but who sez corn can’t be fun? And the fun stops from time to time when the downs of Guthrie’s up-and-down life are recounted. Also, it’s difficult not to think about the timelessness of the Guthrie songbook.” Full Review

Times Square Chronicles

“As American as apple pie…This is a tribute to Woody Guthrie…‘Woody Sez” features four mega-talented musicians and singers. Megan Loomis, Helen Jean Russell and Andy Teirstein support Mr. Lutken who embodies Woody. The arrangements by the cast are spectacular…Mr. Guthrie’s songs have a spiritual side to them that encompasses loving your brothers and your sisters no matter who they are, as well as a social consciousness with political expression.” Full Review


"Lutken devised a tribute to folk music's legendary poet of the people into something that transcends the biographical concert genre...Lutken's collaboration with director Nick Corley makes for an extraordinarily entertaining and informative two hours. It's a concept that calls for a cast of just four, though all must be super gifted and extremely versatile...To describe Lutken's triple-threat singing, playing and acting as excellent is an understatement. He is a wonder!" Full Review

Wolf Entertainment Guide

"Seeing the wonderful musical tribute to Guthrie is not only an entertaining and emotional trip down memory lane but a reminder of what Americans must currently fight for in a time when workers and liberal principles are under assault...It is Lutken who charms on stage by leading us through Guthrie’s life and comments, as well as playing guitar as he takes us on the musical journey...This is a production not to be missed for those who enjoy or especially treasure folk music." Full Review

Carole Di Tosti

"An entertaining and poignant evening of music and storytelling...With a minimalist set and adaptive, flexible staging, the ensemble brings together their sterling musical skills...Guthrie’s words will continue to reverberate in our hearts and minds. The injunctions in his songs are a welcome anodyne to get us through the next day or over a rough patch to eventually take the stand necessary in our own lives and for our culture and nation." Full Review

Theatre Reviews Limited

"The evening is kept at a good steady pace by the competent direction of Nick Corley...Perhaps, at certain times during this production, the power of the song is diminished by the informative introduction but for the most part it serves this production...The overly skilled cast travels through the evening exercising their wide range of vocal ability while playing an incredible array of different instruments...Go spend a couple of enjoyable hours listening to the music of a protesting pioneer." Full Review


"A cast of four thoroughly authentic folk performers combine the major events in Guthrie’s life with the music he created at each stage of his career in a wonderfully entertaining and frequently moving tribute...Together, these four performers create the sense of a get-together remembering our old friend, Woody Guthrie. And it is the genius of that old friend that makes this get-together so entertaining and enlightening." Full Review

Stage Buddy

"The show is two hours of pure string-plucking, chord-strumming, foot-stomping, storytelling delight...It also helps that he has a cast of energetic and highly proficient folk musicians telling his story. Lutken plays Guthrie with a mix of passion, humor, and exuberance that makes for a deeply compelling and moving portrait of the man...I think today's young people will find in Guthrie a fitting champion. And 'Woody Sez' is the perfect introduction." Full Review

Time Out New York

"Like the songs themselves, everything about the show has the ring of truth. The performers look and sound as though they’ve stepped off a farm in Guthrie’s native Oklahoma...Playing guitar, fiddle, banjo, dulcimer, harmonica and other instruments, the performers plumb the inner depths of a man whose Okie roots—scarred by poverty, mental illness and domestic tragedies—filled him with empathy for the downtrodden." Full Review

The Washington Post

for a previous production “An amiable 90 minutes of melodies…The musicianship is first-class…The cast effortlessly adapts to the rousing spirit of the songwriter’s heartland balladeering and protest music…As presented here, though, Guthrie’s music is more seductive than antagonistic, often managing to express with dry-eyed humor the bitter experiences of the poor…The topical similarities of some of the songs do provoke a few yawns, but ‘Woody Sez’ says good night well before its welcome is worn out.” Full Review

The Telegraph (UK)

for a previous production “I defy anyone to go and see ‘Woody Sez’ and not come away feeling that this modest yet delectable offering is a pretty snug fit for these cash-strapped, anxious times…If the evening valuably helps puts today’s travails in historical perspective, what comes across equally forcefully is how the songs transcend the time of their writing…The performers sing with lusty conviction and they handle their instruments with impeccable finesse. They spread warmth out across the auditorium.” Full Review


for a previous production “An eminently likable concert biography...The emphasis is clearly on the music, at which the supporting cast is admirably adept, though Lutken, as the featured player, brings more theatrical skill and empathy to his role...Although there’s nothing particularly surprising in the format of 'Woody Sez,' and often the paean to Guthrie borders on hero worship...the sympathetic production provides a toe-tapping, foot-stomping, crowd-pleasing hootenanny of a tribute to an American icon." Full Review

The New York Times

for a previous production “A haunting, powerful show…This tribute includes enough humor and understatement to keep its hero recognizably human…A theatrical patchwork quilt — scraps of biography and social history sewn together with bits of music and drama by four remarkably multitalented performers. And like the finest of cloth quilts, this one transcends its homespun materials to become a work of art…There’s nothing routine about ‘Woody Sez’…A unified theatrical experience." Full Review

Theater Mirror

for a previous production “Four talented, versatile musicians provide a low-key musical commentary-biography…The four musician-singer-performers happily breeze along with the breeze and melodies, having a great time on stage…Multi-talented, lanky David Lutken as Guthrie is refreshingly sincere, singing and strumming Guthrie’s tunes with gusto…Guthrie’s songs ring out today as loudly as they did when he wrote them.” Full Review

Chicago Theater Beat

for a previous production “David M. Lutken plays Woody with communal charisma...Lutken, as sympathetic in his down-home decency and grass-roots purity as his inspiration, colors all the warm notes in Woody’s haunting call to arms, ‘Why Do You Stand There in the Rain?’ It’s an odyssey of a hootenanny, as unflinchingly sincere as Garrison Keillor in front of a mike or Woody’s pals Pete Seeger and Leadbelly singing up a storm just by ‘always going on.’” Full Review

DC Theatre Scene

for a previous production “A show so good that it makes my job easy…Brimming with toe-tapping music, rich emotion, and powerful messages…Lutken brings Guthrie’s complex prairie philosopher persona to life with practiced confidence and genuine love for his subject…On the whole, it’s a triumphant piece of theater that simultaneously delivers larger than life commentary and moving personal drama in the tale of an American legend.” Full Review

The Arts Fuse

for a previous production “Thoroughly enjoyable and effectively assembled...All four members of the cast are expansively competent, both vocally and instrumentally…Lutken and his crew bring home to us today just how valuable Guthrie and his music are to understanding the complexity of America’s past…Those who are close to young children owe it to them to take them to this production, if only as a way to help them better understand the history of the country they will inherit.” Full Review

British Theatre Guide

for a previous production “Wholesome and homespun…With laid-back passion and gentle amusement, David M Lutken takes on the role of Guthrie…Much like Guthrie and his music, the production is low-key and easy going. Whilst often amusing, it’s never hilarious, though often toe-tapping and uplifting, it never blasts you with a wall of euphoria. Though it would probably be better in a smaller space, the cast create an intimate, welcoming and inviting atmosphere.” Full Review

See: Critics' Reviews | Members' Reviews
Avg Score

Relevant, Disappointing, Slow, Entertaining, Great singing

See it if Powerful musical tribute to folk/activist Woody Guthrie. Lutken's majestic portrayal of Guthrie captures both vocal & physical attributes

Don't see it if Too many songs cheat us out of a more telling book; rather surface depict of Guthrie but potent reminder that the "good fight" never ends

Delightful, Resonant, Entertaining, Great singing, Great staging

See it if For a rousing musical tour through Woody Guthrie's life, music, care for the working man by an excellent ensemble playing all instruments

Don't see it if You don't like musical singalong but even if you don't care for his music or politics this is an endearing group and feel good theater

Delightful, Relevant, Disappointing, Entertaining, Great folk songs

See it if You want to learn about the man and the music that reflected the life of many during the depression through WWII.

Don't see it if You are looking for powerful voices or masterful acting. You don't like folk music.

Intelligent, Intense, Riveting, Great singing, Great musicianship

See it if you want a glorious 2 hrs of music/ words. WS is loaded w talent, esply the charismatic "Woody." WS'll delight your ears and open your heart

Don't see it if you need a narrative arc. WS is a concert, with a bit of biography. WG lived the life he sang about, so the songs are woven in seamlessly.

Also You will be thrilled by the musicianship. All four actors play multipl... Read more Read less

Ambitious, Intelligent, Entertaining, Great musicians

See it if you have fond memories of Woody Guthrie or want to know more about his life. Try to see the exhibit before upstairs before the show starts.

Don't see it if you never heard of Woody Guthrie or don’t like folk music

Also I am old enough to have listened to many songs by Woody Guthrie and hi... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Entertaining, Great singing

See it if you are a fan of Woody Guthrie. Showcases his life and many of his songs. Cast of 4 singers/musicians tell his tale.See America thru him.

Don't see it if you do not like folk music or music that is critical of capitalism and the rich.

Enchanting, Relevant, Great staging, Great acting/singing!, Masterful musicianship & musical arrangement!

See it if U like folk music. Want to know Guthrie's bio. Learn about American history/events that influenced a great simple man to protest peacefully

Don't see it if U dislike musicals. U have no sympathy for universal suffering. U support capitalist exploitation. One can learn sensitivity seeing Show.

Also This is one folk musical spectacular (in talent!) that is impressive. ... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Relevant, Entertaining, Nostalgic, wonderful music

See it if If you like Woody Guthrie's music GO. The musicians and singers are outstanding. Show far superior to 59 E 59 production a few years ago

Don't see it if If you do not like Woody's music, you are against his politics, you do not care for small musical productions, blue grass or folk.

Delightful, Intelligent, Relevant, Entertaining, Great singing

See it if you enjoy the music of Woody Guthrie and will appreciate seeing the story of his life as a musician and activist.

Don't see it if you are so young that you never heard of Woodie Guthrie,; dislike folk music; are looking for a "plot"; this is a bio of Guthrie in music

Absorbing, Delightful, Refreshing, Relevant, Entertaining

See it if You like folk music, are interested in Woody Guthrie, American history, and enjoy amazing musician/actors/music.

Don't see it if You need a loud mind numbing spectacle.

Masterful, Relevant, Entertaining, Great singing, Great musicians

See it if you want to spend two hours with talented musicians/singers with Woody Guthrie's biographical info interwoven into the plot.

Don't see it if you don't like folk music.

Also The four talented performers seem to be enjoying the performance as mu... Read more Read less

Clever, Intelligent, Thought-provoking, Entertaining, Great singing

See it if you are interested in Woody Guthrie. History made interesting with lots of good music.

Don't see it if you hate folk music.

Indulgent, Disappointing, Lifeless, Slow, Stale

See it if you don't mind a very small show without much going on.

Don't see it if you're a big Guthrie fan expecting to learn something new or to enjoy rousing versions of his tunes.

Entertaining, Great music

See it if You like Woody Guthrie; in addition to the show, there is a fascinating exhibit on Woody's life.

Don't see it if You do not like folk music

Absorbing, Clever, Must see, Refreshing

See it if You want to see exquisite musicianship and historical piece about Woody Guthrie. Imaginatively presented.

Don't see it if You don't want to learn about historical leftist views.

Intelligent, Entertaining, Great singing

See it if want to hear four insanely talented people sing and play multiple instruments.

Don't see it if Don't like American Folk Music or want to see a "play"

Also This is thoroughly enjoyable. Each of the four performers play multipl... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Entertaining, Powerful, energtic

See it if you enjoy a brilliant woven presentation of a legendary musician's songs and his life.

Don't see it if You don't like folk music and biographical material.

Quirky, Relevant, Great singing

See it if you love folk music and a story to go with it.

Don't see it if you think America can be great "again".

Enchanting, Great acting, Entertaining, Great singing

See it if Like country music

Don't see it if If you do not like country singing

Funny, Absorbing, Delightful, Enchanting, Entertaining

See it if You love great music and a gifted ensemble who tell a fantastic story! It is simply the best show in town and I see everything!

Don't see it if You don't want to be entertained and moved and would rather be home and unhappy. There is no reason not to see this amazing show

Clever, Delightful

See it if Love folkmusic

Don't see it if Are a Trump supporter

During previews
Great music. great singers and arrangements.

See it if You love Woody Guthrie music. And it's great music!

Don't see it if You don't like Woody Guthrie music.

During previews
Absorbing, Clever, Entertaining, Great singing, Heart felt story

See it if You know or do not know who Woody Guthrie was, the actors did a great job of telling his life story thru his songs

Don't see it if You do not like muscials, poetry and Woody Guthrie