By: Paulanne Simmons
Pete Seeger may have been taken from us over two years ago, but Randy Noojin brings him so much to life in his solo show it seems as if the great singer and activist never died. Seeger, directed by Mary Beth Easely, is one of the offerings of this year’s Fringe festival and should not be missed by anyone who loves Seeger or good music or our right and duty as Americans to stand up for justice.
The show is set in 1982, on a small stage of a fundraiser for U.S.-Cuban normalization held in Washington, D.C. But through music, slides and his own marvelous storytelling ability, Noojin takes us back through the major stages of Seeger’s life: his marriage to Toshi (a filmmaker, producer, and environmental activist in her own right); his move to Beacon, NY; his political awakening; his struggles with the House Un-American Activities Committee and the resulting blacklisting. He also delivers a series of banjo jokes that perfectly illustrate Seeger’s self-deprecating nature.
Noojin, with his scruffy beard and simple work clothes, not only looks like Seeger, he also sounds a good deal like him. And he plays a mean banjo! Most of all, he captures that mixture of pragmatism and optimism that made Seeger so irresistible to his many fans and followers.
Noojin even manages to tell the audience a few new facts. Who knew “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” was written while Seeger was inflight to Oberlin College? And was anyone aware that before it was adopted by the Civil Rights Movement, “We Shall Overcome” was a workers’ protest song Martin Luther King, Jr. first heard when it was sung by Seeger?
There are lots of other songs. “Goodnight Irene,” which put Seeger on the map; “Bring ‘Em Home,” a major anti-Vietnam War anthem, and “Guantanamera,” Cuba’s best known song, by Joseito Fernandez and poet Jose Marti, as well as most of the other songs, inspired audience participation.
Seeger believed the right song at the right time could change history. Seeger shows that the right show at the right time can make your day.
Seeger is at Venue #16, The Huron Club, 15 Vandam St. until Aug. 27. www.seegershow.com or www.fringenyc.org.