The idea behind Woody Sez, which originated at the 2007 Edinburgh Fringe Festival and takes its name from a column Guthrie wrote for the People’s Daily World, is to tell the story of the Dust Bowl Troubadour’s life and times through his music. So the narrative — which touches on Guthrie’s Depression-era peregrinations, his leftist politics, and the tragedies he endured before dying at 55 of inherited Huntington’s disease — is pretty cursory. But when the corn component is tamped down and Guthrie’s spirit of rueful protest shines through, the show achieves its goal of presenting the man’s music simply and authentically.
Some 30 songs are performed, so you get a spectrum as expansive as that of “This Land Is Your Land.” The scathingly frisky “Jolly Banker” — whose eponymous capitalist wants to “halp ya” and “scalp ya” — proves that financial chicanery is timeless. The eloquently delivered (by Lutken) “I Ain’t Got No Home” is a quietly devastating ode to poverty and disenfranchisement. And the catchy and empowering “Union Maid” makes you wonder why anyone felt the need to compose “Look for the Union Label.”
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