Lake Central grad salutes Guthrie’s fervent folk music
By Bob Kostanczuk Post-Tribune correspondent October 10, 2012 3:06PM
Randy Noojin salutes folk music legend Woody Guthrie with “Hard Travelin’ with Woody” at Great Oaks Banquets in Cedar Lake on Oct. 19 and 21. Noojin is a 1978 graduate of Lake Central High School in St. John. | Provided photo~Sun-Times Media
If you go
What: “Hard Travelin’ with Woody” — featuring Randy Noojin
Where: Great Oaks Banquets, 13109 S. Wicker Ave., Cedar Lake
When: Friday, Oct. 19 — dinner at 6:30 p.m., show at 8 p.m.; Sunday, Oct. 21 — dinner at 12:30 p.m., show at 2 p.m.
Tickets: $32 for adults, $30 for senior citizens, $25 for children 12 years old and younger; call 374-8000 or 365-3197
Special note: “Hard Travelin’ with Woody” also will be presented ...
† 11 p.m. Friday, Oct. 26, at Uncommon Ground, 1401 W. Devon Ave., Chicago; admission is $15; (773) 465-9801.
† 5 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 28, at Heartland Cafe, 7000 N. Glenwood Ave., Chicago; $7; (773) 465-8005.
Updated: November 13, 2012 6:10AM
All the blue-collar bravado of folk music icon Woody Guthrie is captured in a one-man show by Randy Noojin, a 1978 graduate of Lake Central High School in St. John.
Noojin, a 50-year-old New York City resident, performs “Hard Travelin’ with Woody” on Friday, Oct. 19, and Sunday, Oct. 21, at Great Oaks Banquets in Cedar Lake.
It’s a dinner-theater presentation designed as a benefit for the L’arc en Ciel Theatre Group, which is headed by Paul and Angie Lowe.
The couple directed Noojin when he was a student in theater productions at Lake Central High School.
Nowadays — during this year’s centennial of Guthrie’s birth — Noojin is re-creating the tunes and aura of the influential artist by singing his works to the accompaniment of guitar and harmonica.
“He sang for the working man,” Noojin said of Guthrie in a recent phone interview. “I realized that he wasn’t just a cool poet. He also was an activist. He was trying to affect social change and justice. He sang for union halls and was very pro-union, especially back then when mine workers were being exploited.”
Angie Lowe said Noojin’s tribute to Guthrie is designed to evoke the Depression-era feel of the legend’s life and times.
“He portrays Woody Guthrie as if he’s just hopped off a boxcar on a train,” Lowe, a 66-year-old St. John resident, said.
Born July 14, 1912, in Oklahoma, Guthrie wrote a catalog of every-man Americana music that includes “Pastures of Plenty,” “This Train is Bound for Glory,” “Hard Travelin’ ” and “This Land is Your Land.”
He captured the grit and the grace of common folks who endured Dust Bowl struggles and other tough economic conditions.
Guthrie’s impact has lasted long after his death on Oct. 3, 1967.
“You can hear Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan and even John Mellencamp talk about him being an inspiration to them,” Noojin, a Schererville native, said. “I realized that some of my greatest heroes — Springsteen and Dylan — talk about Woody as if he was seminal to them. He wasn’t really a recording artist. He was a writer.”
In “Hard Travelin’ with Woody,” Noojin said he portrays Guthrie through garb that mimics him, but believes he brings a personal touch to the show.
“I don’t try to sing like Woody; I bring my own thing to the songs,” Noojin, a playwright, said.
“I’ve done other bio-musicals; I did a Hank Williams show called ‘Lost Highway,’ ” Noojin said.
Lowe said part of the proceeds from Noojin’s appearances at Great Oaks Banquets will be donated to a Cedar Lake food pantry.
She said the name of her theater company — L’arc en Ciel Theatre Group — bears French wording that is lyrical.
“It means the arch in sky, which means rainbow,” said Lowe, who noted she and her husband, Paul, were longtime teachers at Lake Central High School.