You wouldn't be alone if you rolled your eyes at the prospect of an hour-and-a-half musical that celebrates American folk legend Woody Guthrie. But you would be a fool to let any uninformed preconceptions keep you from the engaging "Woody Sez," currently at the A.R.T.
Though Guthrie's music is the centerpiece of "Woody," the show's narrative keeps it from feeling like a musical revue. Each of the 30-plus songs adds a new layer to the story, giving the audience an almost palpable sense of what life was like for the common Midwestern man during the Great Depression.
David M. Lutken attempts to capture Guthrie's essence with his Southern drawl and charming storytelling ability. At times, however, Woody feels more like Will Rogers than the drifting musician/activist wandering through life searching for hope among the seemingly endless tragedies that shaped him.
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Once Lutken and company begin making music, any theatrical shortcoming is forgotten. Even if you're not a fan, you'll find yourself tapping your feet, singing along and wanting to share the joyful moment with your neighbors.
The power of music to heal and provide hope fills the room as people sing at the "Jolly Banker," tell the tale of the "Sinking of the Reuben James," and, of course, joyfully proclaim "This Land Is Your Land."
Even if you have no interest in Woodie Guthrie, the extraordinary musicianship on display in this production is reason enough to see it. Lutken, Darcie Deaville, Helen Jean Russell and Andy Teirstein make music that will touch your soul with everything from a guitar to a set of spoons. And they do it with awe-inspiring joy.
Join in on the hootenanny
Every Thursday night, the cast of "Woody Sez" will lead hootenannies after the performance. All are invited to bring their own instruments and play along, sing or just sit and enjoy the music. Other post-show hootenannies are scheduled at select performances.
If you go
Through May 26
American Repertory Theater
64 Brattle St., Cambridge