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devised by David M. Lutken with Nick Corley and
Darcie Deaville, Helen Jean Russell and Andy Teirstein
directed by Nick Corley

SEPTEMBER 14, 2012 - OCTOBER 21, 2012

The legendary Woody Guthrie defined an American era of social consciousness and political expression with songs like "This Land is Your Land" and "The Ballad of Tom Joad." This musical portrait, featuring Woody's stirring ballads and joyous anthems, celebrates the colorful life and rich musical legacy of America's great folk troubadour.

Northlight is proud to honor this American legend during his Centennial year!

Running time: Approximately 90 minutes, no intermission




Arts Midwest 

This engagement is supported by the Arts Midwest Touring Fund, a program of Arts Midwest, is generously supported by the National Endowment for the Arts with additional contributions from the Illinois Arts Council.

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DAVID M. LUTKEN (Devisor/Music Director) Broadway: Inherit the Wind ('07 revival), Ring of Fire, The Civil War, The Will Rogers Follies. NY City Opera: Paul Bunyan. Off-Broadway: Southern Comfort, Stars in Your Eyes, The Portable Pioneer and Prairie Show, Woody Guthrie's American Song, Winter Man. Regional: Man of La Mancha, Elmer Gantry, Finian's Rainbow, Big River, Pump Boys and Dinettes, The Love List, Death in England, On Golden Pond, The Man Who Came to Dinner, Fire On The Mountain, Stand By Your Man, In the Deep Heart's Core.

DARCIE DEAVILLE is a Toronto native and longtime Austin resident.  Darcie has played on over 200 recordings, combining her signature style with the likes of Ani di Franco, Slaid Cleaves, Eliza Gilkyson, Mary Gauthier and Tom Paxton. Currently a band member in The Austin Lounge Lizards, Darcie also has five of her own CDs, the latest being Livin' on the Lucky Side. She's toured Canada, the USA, Mexico, Germany, Austria, England, Scotland, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, and the Czech Republic. Darcie's theatre work includes the 2001 debut of her musical, Tornado in Slo Mo, Oil City Symphony, Woody Guthrie's American Song, Back Bog Beast Bait, Cotton-patch Gospel and Always, Patsy Cline. She is proud to have originated her role in Woody Sez.

DAVID FINCH is an actor/musician specializing on strings and horns. Finch has played beside Alan Cumming, Serj Tankian, Tony Bennett, Amanda Palmer and Dee Snider. On Broadway he did the Tony Award-winning revival of Cabaret and has performed Woody Sez in Londonʼs West End, the Edinburgh Fringe, the Glasgow Celtic Connection Festival, the Lyric Theatre in Oklahoma City (U.S. premiere) as well as A.R.T. and the Adirondack Theatre Festival. Off-Broadway: Fame, Spring Storm. National/International tours: Cabaret, Fame. Regional: Prometheus Bound, Hank Williamsʼ Lost Highway, Grapes of Wrath, 1940ʼs Radio Hour, Fiddler on the Roof and Buddy. Finch was an Associate Producer at Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS in NYC from 2004-2006. His recently released CD is called the fiddle made me do it.

HELEN JEAN RUSSELL grew up making music. After relocating from a small town in Maryland to New York City, she switched her focus to acting, which led to producing variety shows that featured The City Singers, an a capella choir that she cofounded and directed. Helen is an original cast member of Woody Sez and was part of its 2007 debut in Edinburgh, as well as subsequent tours throughout the UK and Europe, the American debut at the Lyric in Oklahoma, the Arts Theatre in London's West End, and at A.R.T. in Boston. At home in Manhattan, she works as an actor, musical director and publishing technology consultant. Her debut CD, Holly Days, was released in 2008, and she is currently working on a second.


Devised by David M. Lutken with Nick Corley

Nick Corley (Director/Co-Devisor) made his West End and American Repertory Theater directing debut with Woody Sez, which he also co-wrote. (Evening Standard Award "Best Musical" nom.) Other directing credits include the NYC productions of Tall Grass; Flight (Callaway nom.); About Face (NYMF Best Direction nom.); Mother Russia (Carnegie Hall); Fables In Slang; Tim and Scrooge; The Overcoat. As director and co-author: premieres of A Young Lady of Fashion (Fulton Opera House); Eliot Ness...in Cleveland (Denver Theatre Centre). Regionally he has worked at Lyric Theatre of Oklahoma (former artistic director), Houston's Alley Theatre, Adirondack Theater Festival, St. Louis Rep., Vermont's Commons Group. As performer: Broadway (current revival of The Mystery of Edwin Drood, Mary Poppins, A Christmas Carol, She Loves Me), off-Broadway, regional theatre, film (Kissing Jessica Stein) , television.

Sherry Lutken (Associate Director) Off -Broadway and Regional musical staging, choreography and directing credits include: The Bourgeois Gentleman, Pump Boys and Dinettes, Stars in Your Eyes and Anything Goes. Sherry was part of the regional reinvention of Ring of Fire in 2009 at North Carolina's Flat Rock Playhouse. She directed subsequent productions at the Merry-Go-Round Playhouse and in Ivoryton, Connecticut. She has danced in New York at the Duke on 42nd (Tap City), Town Hall (w /Bill Irwin), at the Joyce Soho and many others. Her acting credits include: Crimes of the Heart (Babe), The Last Night of Ballyhoo (Lala), Brighton Beach Memoirs (with Robert Sean Leonard), and Abigail in the 2008 Off-Broadway revival of Arthur Miller's The Crucible.


Luke Hegel-Cantarella (Set Design) designed Woody Sez for the Lyric Theatre of Oklahoma. New York: The Atlantic Theatre Company, Lucille Lortel, the 2004 Whitney Biennial. International: Blue Shade (Rozentheatre, Amsterdam) and Redwood Curtain (American University-Cairo). Regional: Yale Repertory, Pittsburgh Public, Berkshire Theatre Festival, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, Adirondack Theatre Festival, the Prince Music Theatre. Designs for Opera: La Clemenza di Tito (Wolftrap), Cosi fan Tutte (Curtis Opera), La Traviata (Opera at Peabody). He was art director for a season of the hit FX show "Damages" and was a set designer on the films Julie & Julia, State of Play and The Accidental Husband. Luke is head of the set design program at the University of California-Irvine and a Yale School of Drama graduate.


Jeffrey Meek (Costume Designer) has been Lyric Theatre of Oklahoma's Resident Costume Designer for 12 years, has designed the last six years of the OKC Philharmonic's "A Very Merry Pops", and was The Ohio Light Opera's Principal Costumer for nine seasons. Jeffrey has worked with The Point Theatre, Jewel Box Theatre, Carpenter Square, The Eastman School of Music, Colossal Studios, Reduxion Theatre Company, Casa Mañana Theatre, Tulsa Opera and Stage One. Most recently he has branched into the world of film, designing wardrobe for Pearl Carter Scott with Media 13 and Fingerprints. Jeffrey is a proud graduate of Oklahoma City University.


Christine A. Binder (Lighting Design) has designed for Northlight Theatre, Writers Theatre, Steppenwolf Theatre Company, Chicago Shakespeare Theater, Court Theatre, Lookingglass Theatre Company, the McCarter Theatre, Hartford Stage, and the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Her opera designs include work at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, Chicago Opera Theatre, San Diego Opera, New York City Opera, Pittsburgh Opera, and Houston Grand Opera. Recent designs include: The Letters (Writers), and Don Pasquale (Lyric Opera of Chicago). Upcoming productions are: Bengal Tiger in the Baghdad Zoo and Big Lake, Big City (Lookingglass) and Oklahoma! (Lyric Opera of Chicago). Ms. Binder has been nominated for Joseph Jefferson Awards for her work with Court Theatre, Northlight Theatre, and Lookingglass Theatre Company. She is an Artistic Associate with Lookingglass Theatre Company and Head of Lighting at The Theatre School at DePaul University.


Rick Sims (Sound Design) Rick has composed and designed sound for numerous Lookingglass productions and many other Chicago area theatres such as Steppenwolf, Congo Square, Writers, Lifeline, Griffin, The House, Court, ATC, Victory Gardens, The Raven, Steep, Northlight and About Face. Out of town credits include Icarus at the Getty in L.A. with Lookingglass, and Gary at Boston Playwrights. Rick has won a Jeff Award for lyrics in Hepheastus and a BTAA award for Congo Squares' Brothers In the Dust and, has received several nominations for both awards. Rick is an artistic associate of Lookingglass Theatre Company and an associate designer with Aria Music Designs (Ray Nardelli and Josh Horvath). Rick also wrote the book, music and lyrics for Lookingglass' Hillbilly Antigone.


Kristin Leahey, Ph.D (Dramaturg) is the Resident Dramaturg at Northlight and formerly the Literary Manager at A Red Orchid and Woolly Mammoth in Washington, DC. She has worked with Goodman, The Kennedy Center, Indiana Repertory, Cleveland Play House, Victory Gardens, The Notre Dame Shakespeare Festival, Collaboraction, Teatro Luna, Teatro Vista, Steep, Eclipse, Redmoon, Next, and A Red Orchid. Leahey received her M.A. from Northwestern and her Ph.D. from The University of Texas at Austin. Her publications include articles in Theatre Topics, Theatre History, and Theatre Studies, and she has taught at Columbia College, University of Chicago, and at DePaul University. She is an Artistic Associate at Steep Theatre Company and this year's artist-in-residence at Weber State.


Rita Vreeland (Production Stage Manager)  Recent credits in the Chicagoland area include Little Shop of Horrors and many other productions at Theatre at the Center; the annual Christmas Schooner (Mercury); and the world premieres of A Twist of Water (Route 66), El Nogalar (Goodman), and We Are Proud to Present... (Victory Gardens). In addition to stage management, Rita was the set designer at Harold Washington College from 2001-2012, and is a member of the Route 66 Theatre Company in Chicago. She is the proud wife of actor Tom Hickey and mom to one-year-old Charlie.




Photo Gallery

Click on any image to start the slideshow  Click on images to start slideshow

David LutkenHelen Jean Russell, David Finch, David Lutken, Darcie DeavilleHelen Jean Russell and David LutkenDavid Finch, David Lutken, Helen Jean Russell, Darcie DeavilleDavid FinchDavid LutkenDavid Lutken, Darcie DeavilleDavid M. LutkenDavid Lutken recording for Sweet Folk Chicago at WFMTDavid Lutken recording for Sweet Folk Chicago at WFMT
Cast recording at WFMT FolkstageCast recording at WFMT Folkstage

Woody Sez comes to Northlight

Woody Sez comes to Northlight
Bound for Glory
See a Hootenanny at the Adirondack Theatre Festival



"It was 90 minutes of pure joy!"


"The music, production, cast, writing made for a highly enjoyable evening!"


"You should not miss this show. I may see Woody Sez again. " 




"Wonderful acting, amazing talent from all four."


"It was entertaining from the first note to the last with amazingly multitalented actor/musicians."


"Outstanding performances!"


"We have already recommended this show." 


"Great, inspiring songs excellently presented."




Stirring Woody Guthrie tribute was made for you and me

September 24, 2012


"Woody Sez: The Life and Music of Woody Guthrie," [is a ] stirring revue originally produced at the 2007 Edinburgh Festival Fringe, mounted in London's West End last year, and currently touring in connection with the Guthrie centennial. Devised by David M, Lutken, along with director Nick Corley, Darcie Deaville, Helen Jean Russell and Andy Teirstein, it is now onstage at Northlight Theatre, where Lutken - a lanky, graceful actor-singer with virtuosic musical skills - is the Guthrie stand-in and narrator of sorts. He is richly backed by Deaville (a fiddler and master mandolin player), Russell (the singer and instrumentalist who often suggests the haunting spirit of Guthrie's mother), and David Finch, a sparkling personality who can sing, and play superbly on a slew of instruments from strings, to harmonica and spoons.


Roughly chronological in its structure, the 95-minute show features about two dozen songs from what Lutken reminds us is an archive of about 1,500 Guthrie-penned tunes that range from the political (not surprisingly, "the 47 percenters" in the audience will feel wonderfully well-represented), to children's songs ("Riding in My Car"). Along the way there are with a few emblematic traditional numbers, including blues and the "Internationale."


Read the full review >



Northlight Theatre adds "Woody Sez" to list of singer's centennial events

September 19, 2012


Chicagoans can catch one last centennial event - a good one - during the next few weeks.


Guthrie and Broadway? Have no fear. "Woody Sez" is a low-key, high-spirited celebration of Guthrie's music, featuring 30 folk songs (Guthrie's and other traditional tunes). It's far less jukebox musical than a kind of down-home playlist - a splendid swirl of tunes coming and going, each telling and supporting the story.


The Northlight production - featuring the show's creators, Nick Corley (director) and David M. Lutken (starring as Guthrie) - features a simple stage littered with musical instruments: four guitars, mandolin, upright bass, autoharp, dobro, three fiddles, banjo, dulcimer and a harmonica. In an hour and a half, the four actor-musicians keep snatching them up for a verse here, a chorus there, a full song or a reprise. This is how Guthrie lived - applying bits of songs to aid both speech and memory - and it's not so different a method from our own YouTube samples and iPod shuffles. Guthrie just happened to be a walking folk-music Google.


Lutken is great, warmly telling Guthrie's story and differing from his source material only in ways that aren't exactly complaints (unlike Guthrie, Lutken is a tall drink of water and sings beautifully). The cast also features David Finch, the delightful Helen Jean Russell and Austin musician (and formidable "Jill of all trades") Darcie Deaville. They act, they sing, they juggle, they tell bipartisan political jokes.


Read the full review >




Sound tribute to America's folk troubador

September 24, 2012


In the piece devised by director Nick Corley and David M. Lutken (who plays Guthrie and also serves as music director), Guthrie's music is ably wound around simplistic snippets from his life.


The reason to see the show is for the music, wonderfully realized by a quartet including Lutken, Darcie Deaville, David Finch and Helen Jean Russell. The multi-instrumentalists and singers perform on a marvelous range of stringed instruments - bass, banjo, 12- and six-string guitars, autoharp - with Finch even breaking out a set of spoons at one point and orchestrating a snappy small miracle of percussion with them.


Read the full review >



A cordial, bumpy tribute in 'Woody Sez'



September 24, 2012


It's a warm-centered, conventionally styled excursion through the life and times of Woodrow Wilson Guthrie of Okemah, Okla., beginning with his birth in 1912 and peppered with skillful live performances of his music, some 30 songs in all played by a four-piece band of musicians who also double as the acting company.


"Woody Sez" has at least two aces in its deck. One, of course, is Guthrie's music, which is a huge pleasure to hear en masse, especially when played and sung at this level, and the other is the truly formidable central performance by David M. Lutken, which is not only a rich musical exploration of the Guthrie oeuvre but a very fine piece of acting. You should see and hear Lutken perform Guthrie's "Dust Storm Disaster," a great howl of horror at what had come to pass. It will pull you up in your seat.


Read the full review >




Terrific musical pays tribute to Woody Guthrie

September 22, 2012


Kudos to BJ Jones for having the gumption to bring Woody Sez to Northlight theatre in Skokie since  this is a tribute to the father of American folk music in the 1930-40-50′s.  Led by David M. Lutken, Woody Sez features four of the finest acoustical string  folk musicians on earth. From Lutken’s fabulous guitar work to Darcie Deaville’s fiddle and mandolin playing to Helen Jean Russell’s bass, fiddle and guitar work to David Finch’s versatile playing guitar, fiddle, banjo and harmonica, etc., Wood Sez is a musical treat of the first order. Woody Sez sounds good even without Woody’s searing lyrics.  These four lovingly present the life and music of the last American troubadour.  


Read the full review >




Theatre Review: "Woody Sez"

September 24, 2012


The four performers look and sound as authentic as Guthrie’s music. Darcie Deaville and Helen Jean Russell wear the shapeless dresses of the Depression years. David Lutken and David Finch wear the work shirts and plain trousers of the common man (costume design by Jeffrey Meek). The foursome all move between the words and music with an ease and a spontaneity that reflects long hours of rehearsal, and the deft and invisible directorial hand of Nick Corley.

Read the full review >


The Woody Sez Study Guide is available in PDF format.  Click here to download.