REVIEW: Woody Sez - Lyric Theatre, The Lowry, Salford

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LET me get one thing out of the way immediately: this show is fantastic.

Four musicians on stage for two hours, playing a mind-boggling number of instruments, singing beautifully and earning a standing ovation at the end.

The only sad part is that there weren’t more people in the Lyric Theatre at the Lowry to see them.

Then again, a musical/play about the life story of Woody Guthrie was always going to be hard to sell.

In terms of how he is viewed by the public, Bob Dylan – a Guthrie worshipper – is sexy.

Yet Guthrie, despite massively influencing the young Robert Zimmerman – and arguably more talented and more principled – is not.

But forget that. I would urge anyone who loves good music, played wonderfully well, to see this. You will not be disappointed.

As a fan of Dylan, and of folk music in general, I’d heard a lot about Guthrie without ever actually knowing much about him.

This musical, based on the life of times of the pioneering American singer, cleared things up.

Born in 1912 and one of the most influential, ground-breaking musicians of all time until he was struck by illness (he died at the age of 55 from Huntington’s disease), Guthrie was a man who spent his life singing about the plight of his fellow countryman, those who couldn’t afford the good life. Hitting adulthood just as the USA went into its Great Depression in the 1930s had a big affect on him and his songs.

If you want a starting point into his work listen to This Land Is Your Land. It is as good as protest music gets.

It was the final song of the night in this production and had the audience joining in and clapping their hands.

Things got better afterwards when David M Lutken – magnificent as Guthrie – and his three supporting musicians played an impromptu gig in the Lowry bar.

It spoke volumes that the majority of the audience stayed late into the night to watch and enjoy it. Great stuff.

n Woody Sez has finished its run at the Lowry but is on in Harrogate and Wakefield this week.