We’re welcoming back great friends of the family on this holiday convergence, mashing up our Festival of Lights and our Day of Giving Thanks. The friends are the cast of Woody Sez: The Life and Music of Woody Guthrie, our Helen Hayes Award winning show that’s back for three rousing weeks (and seven sing-along hootenannies!) with performances beginning Friday, November 29 at 2 and 8 pm and continuing through the weekend. Click here for the performance calendar.
And here’s the really big news: It’s a freshly renewed show, infused with two additional songs, one being a Woody Guthrie lyric (extracted from his autobiography) that’s never, to any of our collective knowledge, been performed or recorded before! David Lutken’s set Woody’s lyric to a talking blues format and it kicks off a whole new scene opening the New York City material near the top of the show.
Here’s a bit of the new verse, from “Talking New York City, 1940”
WOODY: Well New York City’s got the Empire State
You can see clear out to the Golden Gate.
Rockyfeller Center is up so high
Old John D’s spirit comes adriftin’ by.
It’s New York City. Yeah, New York City.
New York City, and I really got to know my line.
spoken: “Well New York City, up so high
You can almost see the top of the National Debt”
(Woody’s interrupted by the NBC Program Director)
WOODY: Yeah New York City’s on a great big boom
Ol’ Woody’s gonna play up in the Rainbow Room.
The Rainbow Room is mighty fine,
You can spit from here to the Texas line.
In New York City. Lord, New York City.
New York City and I really gotta know my line.
You know Rockyfeller Center is a funny place to play.
It’s a long way from here to the USA and
New York City. Way back down to New York City. Yeah New York City and I really gotta know my line.
After a great bit about the day DuPont Chemical introduced lady’s “nylon” stockings to America (and sold out its entire inventory in one day’s worth of advertising), this new version of the show introduces a verse previously left out of the song, “Why Do You Stand There In The Rain?” – a moving anthem that brackets the first act:
WOODY: If everybody owned everything
Then us poor folks all would sing
And the world’d finally come out fair and square.
The only time you’d have a brawl’d be
If someone built a wall around a
County and then tried to call it theirs.
Tell me, why do you stand there in the rain,
Why do you stand there in the rain.
Thank God in the U.S. of A. you can disagree all day,
But tell me, why do you stand here in the rain?
You get the point on this new material? It’s got pointed zingers set to wonderful music, 100% Woody authenticated and giving new lift to the start of this great show, and the infusions keep coming at intervals throughout.
How’d the show come to renew itself this way? Well, David, Helen and company been sitting on this new material and new impulses for months and months but didn’t really have a chance to rehearse them with the rest of the cast and director to work them into a new version of the show until the team got to the Cleveland Playhouse earlier this fall where the company was able to rehearse for a full two weeks before the 6 week Cleveland run. So here they come back now to DC with a new cast member, Leenya Rideout (wonderful of voice and acting chops playing all manners of guitars, a mandolin, and violin) new material, and the same great structure and story that made this show such an enthusiastically embraced event last season.
It’s been great staying close to this company all year long, from Chicago, to DC, to Tel Aviv and now we welcome them back for what we’re sure will be a great 3 week run. Worth catching the gang again if you saw them last season, and even more imperative that you see the show if you missed it the first time! From all of us at Theater J, we wish you a great and wonderful Thanksgiving and Happy Channukah!