Woody Guthrie’s American Song

Woody Guthrie's American Song (PCPA Theatrefest/Solvang; 700 seats; $ 18 top) Pacific Conservatory of the Performing Arts Theatrefest, by special arrangement with Sam Ellis and Peter Glazer, presents "Woody Guthrie's American Song," a musical revue in two acts, based on songs and writings by Woody Guthrie , conceived and adapted by Peter Glazer, directed by Frederic Barbour. Orchestrations and vocal arrangements by Jeff Waxman; musical director, Lee Stametz; scenic design, R. Eric Stone; costume design, Cheryl Odom; lighting design, Michael D. Ferguson; sound design, Doug Tomooka. Musicians: Jeff Peters, Paul Lee, Jeff Norwood. Opened Aug. 23, 1996, reviewed Sept. 6; closed Sept. 7 (moves to PCPA's Marian Theatre in Santa Maria on Sept. 13, closes Sept. 28.). Running time: 2 hours. Cast: Jered Tanner (First Young Man), Brian Gunter (Second Young Man), Nick Hovick (Man), Lonie Panhorst (Young Woman), Kitty Balay Genge (Woman). Director Frederic Barbour emphasizes the poetic and romantic side of the great American composer, singer and social activist Woody Guthrie in Peter Glazer's creation featuring 22 of Guthrie's best-known works, tied together with a biographical narrative taken mostly from Guthrie's prose. Aided greatly by the musical arrangements of Jeff Waxman and the uncomplicated musical direction of Lee Stametz, "Woody Guthrie's American Song" is a lighthearted hootenanny benefited greatly by five talented singer-actors backed by an exceptional three-piece instrumental ensemble. The first act follows Guthrie ( 1912-1967) from his early years on the Oklahoma plains ("Where the oil flowed, the dust blowed, and the farmer owed") through the Depression. Woody is played alternately as a young man by Jered Tanner and Brian Gunter, with Tanner capturing Guthrie's reedy twang best on such Depression-era fare as "Jolly Banker," "Dust Storm Disaster" and "Dust Bowl Refugee." In a re-creation of a Hooverville refugee campsite, Lonie Panhorst and Kitty Balay Genge offer a sadly optimistic rendering of "Worried Man." Ensemble numbers are the highlights of the first act as musicians Jeff Peters, Paul Lee and Jeff Norwood offer solid, authentic accompaniment on a number of acoustic instruments; the five cast members are at their best united, singing such Guthrie classics as "Hard Travelin'," "Bound For Glory," "Ain't Gonna Be Treated This Way" and the first act finale, "Pastures of Plenty." The second act chronicles the life of the more cosmopolitan Woody Guthrie, who wrote more than 1,000 songs, during the 1940s in New York. Gunter as a more lyrical Guthrie and Tanner as the legendary folkie Cisco Houston set the tone with the sardonic "New York Town." Gunter also does a credible job of giving Guthrie credentials as an original rapper in his rhythmic interpretation of "Talkin' Subway." He then takes the lead in a rousing four-part rendition of "Union Maid." The New York setting offers some wonderful individual moments. Genge exudes a powerful saloon quality to her renditions of "Hard Aint It Hard" and "The Sinking of the Reuben James." Nick Hovick is a better actor than singer but sets a poignant mood for the classic lament, "Nine Hundred Miles." And the highlight of the second act has to be Panhorst's soulful outing on "Deportee." Of course, no evening of Woody Guthrie music would be complete without his Americana anthem, "This Land is Your Land," with the audience practically drowning out the on-stage ensemble. The scenic (R. Eric Stone), lighting (Michael D. Ferguson), costume (Cheryl Odom) and sound designs (Doug Tomooka) were appropriately understated, offering just enough support to set up the flow of narrative and song. Julio Martinez

Woody Guthrie’s American Song (PCPA Theatrefest/Solvang; 700 seats; $ 18 top) Pacific Conservatory of the Performing Arts Theatrefest, by special arrangement with Sam Ellis and Peter Glazer, presents “Woody Guthrie’s American Song,” a musical revue in two acts, based on songs and writings by Woody Guthrie , conceived and adapted by Peter Glazer, directed by Frederic Barbour. Orchestrations and vocal arrangements by Jeff Waxman; musical director, Lee Stametz; scenic design, R. Eric Stone; costume design, Cheryl Odom; lighting design, Michael D. Ferguson; sound design, Doug Tomooka. Musicians: Jeff Peters, Paul Lee, Jeff Norwood. Opened Aug. 23, 1996, reviewed Sept. 6; closed Sept. 7 (moves to PCPA’s Marian Theatre in Santa Maria on Sept. 13, closes Sept. 28.). Running time: 2 hours. Cast: Jered Tanner (First Young Man), Brian Gunter (Second Young Man), Nick Hovick (Man), Lonie Panhorst (Young Woman), Kitty Balay Genge (Woman). Director Frederic Barbour emphasizes the poetic and romantic side of the great American composer, singer and social activist Woody Guthrie in Peter Glazer’s creation featuring 22 of Guthrie’s best-known works, tied together with a biographical narrative taken mostly from Guthrie’s prose. Aided greatly by the musical arrangements of Jeff Waxman and the uncomplicated musical direction of Lee Stametz, “Woody Guthrie’s American Song” is a lighthearted hootenanny benefited greatly by five talented singer-actors backed by an exceptional three-piece instrumental ensemble. The first act follows Guthrie ( 1912-1967) from his early years on the Oklahoma plains (“Where the oil flowed, the dust blowed, and the farmer owed”) through the Depression. Woody is played alternately as a young man by Jered Tanner and Brian Gunter, with Tanner capturing Guthrie’s reedy twang best on such Depression-era fare as “Jolly Banker,” “Dust Storm Disaster” and “Dust Bowl Refugee.” In a re-creation of a Hooverville refugee campsite, Lonie Panhorst and Kitty Balay Genge offer a sadly optimistic rendering of “Worried Man.” Ensemble numbers are the highlights of the first act as musicians Jeff Peters, Paul Lee and Jeff Norwood offer solid, authentic accompaniment on a number of acoustic instruments; the five cast members are at their best united, singing such Guthrie classics as “Hard Travelin’,” “Bound For Glory,” “Ain’t Gonna Be Treated This Way” and the first act finale, “Pastures of Plenty.” The second act chronicles the life of the more cosmopolitan Woody Guthrie, who wrote more than 1,000 songs, during the 1940s in New York. Gunter as a more lyrical Guthrie and Tanner as the legendary folkie Cisco Houston set the tone with the sardonic “New York Town.” Gunter also does a credible job of giving Guthrie credentials as an original rapper in his rhythmic interpretation of “Talkin’ Subway.” He then takes the lead in a rousing four-part rendition of “Union Maid.” The New York setting offers some wonderful individual moments. Genge exudes a powerful saloon quality to her renditions of “Hard Aint It Hard” and “The Sinking of the Reuben James.” Nick Hovick is a better actor than singer but sets a poignant mood for the classic lament, “Nine Hundred Miles.” And the highlight of the second act has to be Panhorst’s soulful outing on “Deportee.” Of course, no evening of Woody Guthrie music would be complete without his Americana anthem, “This Land is Your Land,” with the audience practically drowning out the on-stage ensemble. The scenic (R. Eric Stone), lighting (Michael D. Ferguson), costume (Cheryl Odom) and sound designs (Doug Tomooka) were appropriately understated, offering just enough support to set up the flow of narrative and song. Julio Martinez

Woody Guthrie's American Song

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