New York | 2h 5m | Already closed

Woody Sez: The Life & Music of Woody Guthrie

From 24 critic and 105 member reviews
Members say: Entertaining, Great singing, Delightful, Relevant, Absorbing

About the show

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


"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

New York Irish Arts

“One of the best shows of the year…If ‘Woody Sez’ were just four talented musicians playing Woody Guthrie songs, with a little intro, it would be great. But it’s so much more than that. It’s a theatrical collage of music and time…It’s quite a feat: the cast are amazing musicians, and wonderful actors who give heart-rending performances…Yes, it’s a bio play, but not only of Guthrie, but of America…It’s never been more needed than now.” 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


"Four wonderful performers vibrantly sing and act out the singer-songwriter’s classic, political songs...Lutken magnificently captures the essence of Guthrie with his wry twang, beaming smile, and dramatic presence...The script is an accomplished distillation of historical details that seamlessly blend with the songs into an engaging, informative, and highly entertaining presentation...A living monument to the enduring greatness of Woody Guthrie’s songs and a reminder of his courageous life." 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

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


"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

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

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

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

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

Village Voice

"As genial as a hootenanny, yet creator Lutken and his collaborators never water down Guthrie’s politics or get sentimental...Nor do Lutken and company strain to emphasize contemporary resonances...Director Corley and the cast certainly make Guthrie’s standpoint look and sound appealing...But the script remains too cursory to convey much of the man’s psychological landscape...Thanks to the music, however, the social fabric comes across in all its exhilarating, exasperating fullness." 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

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

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

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 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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Absorbing, Entertaining, Clever

See it if You value Labor union and folk song history

Don't see it if You don't like music

Entertaining, Great acting, Absorbing, Delightful

See it if if you want to be entertained and you like folk music

Don't see it if you do not like that kind of music

Delightful, Enchanting

See it if loved the singing and story. also went to the sunday night hootanay which was great

Don't see it if don't like wood Guthrie music

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, 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.

Absorbing, Delightful, Entertaining, Funny, Enchanting

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

Entertaining, Great singing, Clever

See it if You like folk music, or the influence of Woody Guthrie on music, or just like music

Don't see it if You hate all folk and bluegrass music and are not interested in giving it a chance.

Entertaining, Absorbing, Relevant, Refreshing, Delightful

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.

Great singing, Must see, Resonant, Entertaining, Absorbing

See it if you want to learn about the life of Woody Guthrie told through his songs

Don't see it if You don't like folk music or protest songs

Entertaining, Funny, Delightful

See it if you enjoy fantastic singers and musicians!

Don't see it if No reason not to see it! It was fantastic!

Intelligent, Absorbing, Clever, Entertaining, Great singing

See it if If you like folk and protest music you will love this production about the life of Woody Guthrie and America. Packed with history. Wonderful

Don't see it if If you don't like folk, Woody or care about people.

Enchanting, Relevant, Great music, Inspiring, Heartbreaking

See it if Emotional bio with great music. I fell in love with Woody... his causes, his fellowship, and his tragedies. This show has a lot of heart.

Don't see it if You don't like bios, or don't like folk music about the plight of the impoverished, much of it during the Great Depression.

Great singing, Intelligent, Relevant

See it if You like folk music and the wonderful songs of Woody Guthrie

Don't see it if You don't like Woody Guthrie and his message

Delightful, Entertaining, Great singing, Profound, Relevant

See it if This show was amazingly relevant to what is going on in this country and the world today. If you like "folk music", you will love it.

Don't see it if This was basically a concert, not a play. Otherwise, see it.

Relevant, Great singing, Masterful

See it if the idea of 4 performers masterfully playing 18 instruments & singing like hobo angels sounds amazing, you will be moved & transported.

Don't see it if you have no interest in honestly looking at America's past or learning about one of America's great cultural treasures.

Also I put this on a very short list of shows I dearly wish every American ... Read more Read less

Woody goody

See it if Even the folk indifferent will enjoy WS. Pure entertainment and an interesting life story. He opposed radio censorship despite income loss.

Don't see it if Stuck in mezzanine.

Also A pure delight. After a decade of touring, this quartet runs like a Sw... Read more Read less

Entertaining, Delightful, Great acting, Absorbing, Clever

See it if Wonderfully entertaining

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

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.

Absorbing, Thought-provoking, Refreshing, Must see, Profound

See it if you like political theater and/or folk music. The cast of 4 musicians/actors were amazing !

Don't see it if you don't like politics in you theater, need high production values or you hate folk music.

Absorbing, Entertaining, Funny, Great singing, Intelligent

See it if If you loved Woody's or Pete Seeger, you will have memories refreshed. See it also if you enjoy learning the story of a msn's life

Don't see it if You do not like the banjo.

Delightful, Entertaining, Great singing, Must see

See it if You like a a play about the life and music of Woody Guthrie with excellent sings.

Don't see it if You do not want to see a good show.

Absorbing, Entertaining, Great singing

See it if you enjoy historical narrative plays filled with inspiring songs and great folk music.

Don't see it if you prefer heavy multi-character dramas and are not interested in folk-inspired narratives of life in the dust bowl era of American history.

Two hours of marvelous captivation, Absorbing, Entertaining, On target

See it if .you like to learn about a performer's family and struggles and career . want to see talented singers, performers and musicians in 4 people

Don't see it if I can't imagine anyone not liking it

Also hear great songs, go back to the twenties and thirties, climate and po... Read more Read less

Clever, Absorbing, Entertaining

See it if loved it.

Don't see it if you don't like woody

Great singing, Great staging, Intelligent, Masterful, Relevant

See it if You love folk music; you believe entertainment can be socially and politically relevant; you want to hear some of Guthrie's catalog . .

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

Cast & Creatives (13)