Milwaukee Repertory Theater
Press Release

Woody Sez

Celebrating the Life and Music of Woody Guthrie, Kicks Off the New Year in The Rep’s Stackner Cabaret

By - Dec 5th, 2013 02:40 pm

December 4, 2013 – [Milwaukee] – A joyous, toe-tapping, and moving theatrical concert event which celebrates the colorful life and rich musical legacy of America’s greatest troubadour, Woody Sez: The Life and Music of Woody Guthrie features more than 25 songs including classics like “This Land is Your Land,” “Pastures of Plenty” and “The Ballad of Tom Joad.” The original folk hero, Woody Guthrie, and his infectious melodies defined an American era of political expression and transformed the folk ballad into a vehicle of social commentary and unity.  The Rep is excited to kick off 2014 with a musical salute to this music icon in this award-winning production.

Devised by David M. Lutken, Nick Corley, Darcie Deaville, Helen Jean Russell and Andy Teirstein, Woody Sez will be directed by Nick Corley. David M. Lutken will provide musical direction for this production. The cast features David Finch, Leenya Rideout, Helen Jean Russell and David M. Lutken, who recently received a 2013 Helen Hayes Award, Best Lead Actor and 2013 Jeff Award for his role in Woody Sez. Playing in the Stackner Cabaret January 3 – March 9, Woody Sez: The Life and Music of Woody Guthrie opens Sunday, January 5. The production is sponsored by Associate Producers Wayne and Kristine Lueders.

2013 Helen Hayes Award, Best Lead Actor and 2013 Jeff Award winner for his role in Woody Sez

“After seeing this beautifully-crafted piece in Chicago, I knew that we had to bring it to Milwaukee,” said Artistic Director Mark Clements. “Even though Woody Guthrie wrote songs responding to the people and events of a particular period, like any other pieces of great art, his songs still rouse the heart, capture the imagination and resonate just as strongly today as when they were first written – true classics!”

Lyn Gardner, theater critic for The Guardian, wrote of the London engagement: “This high-spirited celebration of Guthrie’s life and music knocks big West End biopics into a heap of dust . . . ”  Chris Jones, theater critic for the Chicago Tribune, said in his review of the show: “A rich musical exploration . . . Lutken is truly formidable . . . it will pull you up in your seat.”


David Finch, an actor/musician based in Brooklyn, New York, has performed with Alan Cumming, Serj Tankian, Tony Bennett, Amanda Palmer and Dee Snider, among others, in venues ranging from Lincoln Center to San Francisco’s Castro Theatre. A cast member of the Tony Award-winning revival of Cabaret, he performed on Broadway at Studio 54 and toured the U.S., Canada and Japan. He made his West End debut with Evening Standard Best Musical nominee Woody Sez. Off-Broadway credits include Fame on 42nd Street and the New York premiere of Tennessee Williams’ Spring Storm. He is also co-creator and musical supervisor of Careless Love: A Down Home Musical.

David M. Lutken, (Music Director/Co-Deviser/Choreographer), a 2013 Helen Hayes Award, Best Lead Actor and 2013 Jeff Award winner for his role in Woody Sez, studied at London’s Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art. He has performed in Europe and the United Kingdom, at Lincoln Center, the 92nd Street Y and Carnegie Hall and made his West End debut with Woody Sez (2011 London Evening Standard nominee, Best Musical). Broadway credits include Inherit the Wind, Ring of Fire, The Civil War and The Will Rogers Follies. Off-Broadway includes Southern Comfort, Stars in Your Eyes, The Portable Pioneer and Prairie Show, Woody Guthrie’s American Song and Winter Man. In the U.K., Dark of the Moon, Bonnie and Clyde and A Month in the Country. Selected U.S. regional credits include Man of La Mancha, Elmer Gantry, Finian’s Rainbow, Big River, Pump Boys and Dinettes, The Love List and Death in England, among many others.

Leenya Rideout has appeared on Broadway in: War Horse; Cyrano de Bergerac (with Kevin Kline); Company (Jenny) and Cabaret. Off-Broadway: Yiddle with a Fiddle (American Jewish Theatre); The Portable Pioneer and Prairie Show (Melting Pot Theatre Company) and Cowgirls (Minetta Lane Theatre). Regional: The Last of the Red Hot Lovers and Gypsy (Hangar Theatre); Holidays with the Chalks (Alliance Theater) and Merrily We roll Along (Gussie) (Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park), among others. Television/radio: Company (PBS); Cyrano de Bergerac (PBS); My Favorite Broadway (PBS); Nashville Star (USA Network), Jerry Lewis Telethon and Selected Shorts (NPR).

Helen Jean Russell, based in Manhattan, has produced variety shows featuring The City Singers, an a cappella choir that she cofounded and directed. Russell was part of Woody Sez’s 2007 debut in Edinburgh, as well as subsequent tours throughout the U.K. and Europe, the American debut at Lyric Theatre of Oklahoma, the Arts Theatre in London’s West End and at American Repertory Theater in Boston. At home in Manhattan, she works as an actor, musical director and publishing technology consultant. In 2012 she was nominated for a Helen Hayes Award, Best Lead Actress for her work in Woody Sez. Her debut CD, Holly Days, was released in 2008, and she is at work on a second.

Understudies for Woody Sez: The Life and Music of Woody Guthrie are: Kevin Barry Crowley, Patrick Budde and Elyse Edelman.


The creative team for Woody Sez: The Life and Music of Woody Guthrie includes: Nick Corley (Director/Co-Devisor); David M. Lutken (Music Director/Co-Devisor/Choreographer) (see above bio);  Luke Hegel-Cantarella (Scenic Designer); Jeffrey Meek (Costume Designer); Charles Cooper (Lighting Designer); Barry G. Funderburg (Sound Designer); Laura F. Wendt (Stage Manager) and Frank Honts (Assistant Director).

Nick Corley, (Director/Co-Devisor) made his London West End, Chicago, Boston and Washington, D.C. directing debuts with Woody Sez, which he also co-wrote. (Helen Hayes and Evening Standard “Best Musical” award nominations.) He has directed many world premieres including Woody Sez for the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and the New York City productions of Tall Grass; Flight (Callaway Award Nomination); About Face (New York Music Theatre Festival nomination, Best Direction); Fables in Slang; Tim and Scrooge; The Overcoat and Tallboy Walkin.’ Regional premieres include The Civil War (co-directed at Houston’s Alley Theatre); A Young Lady of Fashion (Fulton Opera House — also co-author); and Eliot Ness . . . in Cleveland (Denver Center Theatre — also a co-author). He was the former Artistic Director of Lyric Theatre of Oklahoma. Other directing credits include: The Bomb-itty of Errors (Adirondack Theatre Festival and The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis); Mother Russia (Carnegie Hall); The Little Foxes (Fulton Opera House) and The Robber Bridegroom, Drood, Man of La Mancha, Bat Boy, A Little Night Music and Lucky Stiff, all for The Commons Group in Vermont. He has directed over 100 workshops and readings, many of them for New York University’s graduate musical theatre writing program. His appearances as a performer include: The Mystery of Edwin Drood, Mary Poppins, A Christmas Carol and She Loves Me on Broadway; Off-Broadway; regional theater; the film Kissing Jessica Stein; recordings and television.

David M. Lutken, (Music Director/Co-Deviser//Choreographer) see bio above

Luke Hegel-Cantarella, (Scenic Designer), designs scenery and space for stage and film production. His work has been seen in over 100 theater, dance and opera projects across the U.S. and internationally. Regional theater credits include: American Repertory Theater, Pittsburgh Public Theater, Yale Repertory Theatre, Repertory Theater of St. Louis, Prince Music Theater and many others. Opera credits include: Cosi Fan Tutte, La Clemenza di Tito, Don Giovanni, The Rake’s Progress, La Traviata and Albert Herring. He has designed dance projects for The Wooden Floor in collaboration with choreographers Mark Haim, Jeff Slayton, Melanie Rios-Glaser and Susan Rethorst. Hegel-Cantarella is Head of the Set Design program at Pace University and holds a M.F.A. from the Yale School of Drama.

Jeffrey Meek, (Costume Designer), is in his 13th season as resident Costume Designer with Lyric Theatre of Oklahoma. For ten years, he served as principal costumer for The Ohio Light Opera. He has worked with such companies as The Point Theatre, Jewel Box Theatre, Carpenter Square, Eastman School of Music and Colossal Studios. Meek designed Romeo and Juliet for Oklahoma City’s Reduxion Theatre Company and A Christmas Carol: The Musical, Annie and Disney’s High School Musical for Casa Mañana. For the past seven years he has designed A Very Merry Pops for Oklahoma City’s Philharmonic. Most recently he has branched into the world of film, designing wardrobe for Pearl Carter Scott with Media 13 and Fingerprints. Meek is a proud graduate of Oklahoma City University.

Charles Cooper, (Lighting Designer), an award-winning Chicago-based lighting designer, has designed for Steppenwolf Theatre Company, Indiana Repertory Theatre, Writers’ Theatre, Drury Lane Oakbrook, Victory Gardens Theatre, Northlight Theatre Company, First Stage Children’s Theater, American Theatre Company, Peninsula Players Theatre and many more. He is an Associate Artist of Chicago’s Timeline Theatre where he has designed more than 15 productions. He studied at Purchase College and DePaul University. Cooper has received five Jeff Award nominations and two After Dark Awards.

Barry G. Funderburg, (Sound Designer), returns to The Rep for his 65th production. Memorable Rep productions include Blues in the Night, Othello, The 39 Steps, The Cherry Orchard, Pride and Prejudice, Armadale, Mary Stuart, Work Song and Angels in America: Millennium Approaches. Off-Broadway, he designed the critically-acclaimed New York premiere of Wittenberg at The Pearl Theatre Company.  Regional theater credits include Fake, Carter’s Way and Mother Courage and Her Children at Steppenwolf Theatre Company, 16 productions at Utah Shakespeare Festival, including the recent regional theater premiere of Peter and the Starcatcher. Chicago credits include Next Theatre, Theatre at the Center, and Lookingglass. Barry has received four Chicago Equity Jeff Award nominations, the 1996 and 2008 Jeff Awards for Sound Design, and an MFA in sound design from Purdue University.

Laura F. Wendt, (Stage Manager), now in her eighth season at The Rep, recently stage managed Ragtime earlier this season. A Wisconsin native and graduate from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, other regional theater credits include: Riverside Theatre Shakespeare Festival, American Players Theatre and Nebraska Shakespeare Festival.

Frank Honts, (Assistant Director), a member of The Rep’s Artistic Ensemble, was Assistant Director for Noises Off and Venus is Fur earlier this season. He comes to Milwaukee from Madison where he was Artistic Associate at Forward Theater Company. Recent directing projects include 9 Circles (Midwest premiere) and Speech & Debate. In addition to his work as a director, dramaturg and assistant director at Forward Theater, he has worked with American Players Theatre, California Shakespeare Theater, Utah Shakespeare Festival, Madison Opera and Children’s Theater of Madison.


Tickets for Woody Sez: The Life and Music of Woody Guthrie begin at $40.00. Single Tickets for all of Milwaukee Repertory Theater’s 2013/14 productions are now on sale and can be purchased online 24/7 at, through The Rep’s Ticket Office by calling 414-224-9490 or in person at 108 E. Wells Street. Group tickets are also available for purchase by calling 414-290-5340.

To learn more about The Rep or its productions, please visit


  • Audio-Description Performance – On Sunday, January 12 at 7:00pm there will be an Audio-Described Performance for patrons who are blind or have low vision.


WHAT: Woody Sez: The Life and Music of Woody Guthrie

DEVISED BY: David M. Lutken, Nick Corley, Darcie Deaville, Helen Jean Russell  Andy Tierstein

DIRECTED BY: Nick Corley

THEATER: Stackner Cabaret

DATES: January 3, 2014 – March 9, 2014

DESCRIPTION: The original folk hero, Woody Guthrie, and his energetic, moving, and infectious melodies defined an American era of political expression, and transformed the folk ballad into a vehicle of social commentary and unity.  With more than 25 songs – including classics like “This Land is Your Land,” “Pastures of Plenty” and “The Ballad of Tom Joad” – this joyous, toe-tapping and moving theatrical concert event celebrates the colorful life and rich musical legacy of America’s greatest troubadour.

Friday, 1/3/14 – 8:00pm – Preview
Saturday, 1/4/14 – 8:00pm – Preview
Sunday, 1/5/14 – 7:00pm – Open
Tuesday, 1/7/14 – 7:30pm
Wednesday, 1/8/14 – 7:30pm
Thursday, 1/9/14 – 7:30pm
Friday, 1/10/14 – 8:00pm
Saturday, 1/11/14 – 4:00pm/8:00pm
Sunday, 1/12/14 – 2:00pm/7:00pm – Audio Description
Tuesday, 1/14/14 – 7:30pm
Wednesday, 1/15/14 – 7:30pm
Thursday, 1/16/14 – 7:30pm
Friday, 1/17/14 – 8:00pm
Saturday, 1/18/14 – 4:00pm/8:00pm
Sunday, 1/19/14 – 2:00pm/7:00pm
Tuesday, 1/21/14 – 6:30pm – Early Bird
Wednesday, 1/22/14 – 7:30pm
Thursday, 1/23/14 – 7:30pm
Friday, 1/24/14 – 8:00pm
Saturday, 1/25/14 – 4:00pm/8:00pm
Sunday, 1/26/14 – 2:00pm/7:00pm
Tuesday, 1/28/14 – 7:30pm
Wednesday, 1/29/14 – 7:30pm
Thursday, 1/30/14 – 7:30pm
Friday, 1/31/14 – 8:00pm
Saturday, 2/1/14 – 4:00pm/8:00pm
Sunday, 2/2/14 – 2:00pm/7:00pm
Tuesday, 2/4/14 – 7:30pm
Wednesday, 2/5/14 – 7:30pm
Thursday, 2/6/14 -7:30pm
Friday, 2/7/14 – 8:00pm
Saturday, 2/8/14 – 4:00pm/8:00pm
Sunday, 2/9/14 – 2:00pm/7:00pm
Tuesday, 2/11/14 – 7:30pm
Wednesday, 2/12/14 – 7:30pm
Thursday, 2/13/14 – 7:30pm
Friday, 2/14/14 – 8:00pm
Saturday, 2/15/14 – 4:00pm/8:00pm
Sunday, 2/16/14 – 2:00pm/7:00pm
Tuesday, 2/18/14 – 7:30pm
Wednesday, 2/19/14 – 7:30pm
Thursday, 2/20/14 – 7:30pm
Friday, 2/21/14 – 8:00pm
Saturday, 2/22/14 – 4:00pm/8:00pm
Sunday, 2/23/14 – 2:00pm/7:00pm
Tuesday, 2/25/14 – 7:30pm
Wednesday, 2/26/14 – 7:30pm
Thursday, 2/27/14 – 7:30pm
Friday, 2/28/14 – 8:00pm
Saturday, 3/1/14 – 4:00pm/8:00pm
Sunday, 3/2/14 – 2:00pm/7:00pm
Tuesday, 3/4/14 – 7:30pm
Wednesday, 3/5/14 – 7:30pm
Thursday, 3/6/14 – 7:30pm
Friday, 3/7/14 – 8:00pm
Saturday, 3/8/14 – 4:00pm/8:00pm
Sunday, 3/9/14 – 2:00pm/7:00pm – Close

TICKET PRICES: Start at $40.00.

TICKETS/INFORMATION: 414-224-9490 or buy tickets online at

TICKET OFFICE LOCATION: 108 East Wells Street in Milwaukee’s Downtown Theater District

TICKET OFFICE HOURS: Mon – Fri, 12pm – 6pm on phones, 12pm – curtain for window

Sat/Sun 12pm – 6pm on phones, 12pm – curtain for window

Please note: The Rep Ticket Office is closed Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.

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