Lonesome Traveler OFF-BROADWAY REVIEWS

Photo: Carol Rosegg
  • NY TIMES

  • Opening Night:
    March 7, 2015
    Closing:
    April 19, 2015

    Theater: 59E59 Theaters / 59 East 59th St., New York, NY, 10022

    Synopsis: 

    Described by critics as a warm, embracing communal experience, "Lonesome Traveler" takes audiences on a journey down the rivers and streams of American folk -- from the backwoods of Appalachia to the nightclubs of San Francisco and New York. Nine young singer/musicians dramatize key moments in the history of the American folk revival, portraying characters such as The Carter Family, Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie, Odetta, Leadbelly, The Kingston Trio and Joan Baez. Along the way, audiences are invited to sing along to classics such as 'Goodnight, Irene', 'This Land Is Your Land', 'Puff the Magic Dragon', 'Baby Blue', and 'We Shall Overcome'. Weaving together a tapestry of the venues and historic circumstances that put folk at the core of the great changes which swept American society from the 1920s to the 1960s, "Lonesome Traveler" celebrates the legacy of folk as the soundtrack of social change and moral revolution.

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  • NEW YORK TIMES REVIEW OF Lonesome Traveler

    In ‘Lonesome Traveler,’ a Folk Music Journey Unfolds

    Neil Genzlinger

    March 25, 2015: “Lonesome Traveler” is full of familiar songs prettily sung, a sort of jukebox folk musical. Too bad it didn’t aspire to be more; still, it sounds great. The play, written and directed by James O’Neil, gives a drive-by history of folk music in the last century, or at least the largely white version as embodied by groups like the Kingston Trio and Peter, Paul and Mary. It serves up songs that anyone over 60 and many younger than that know by heart — “Guantanamera,” “Midnight Special,” “Tom Dooley” and more than 30 others, played and sung by a skilled cast that encourages the audience at 59E59’s Theater A to sing along. A sparse narrative accompanies the songs, which are arranged roughly chronologically, beginning in the 1920s and ending in the mid-1960s as the folk revival was being nudged aside by electric guitars. The cast members become personifications of various singers and groups — Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, the Almanac Singers, the Weavers, the Limeliters, Odetta and so on. It’s not a particularly inclusive definition of folk music. The show’s two black performers, Anthony Manough and the fabulous Jennifer Leigh Warren, often seem sandwiched in as afterthoughts. And the song selection is virtually surprise-free, sticking almost exclusively to folk’s greatest hits. Does anyone really need to hear “Michael, Row the Boat Ashore” again?

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