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.
By: Hy Bender
In all honesty, I'm not a fan of solo bio-musical shows. The chances of a non-celebrity doing justice to a superstar singer are tiny. I came to this show mostly because it happened to fit a slot in my Fringe schedule.
I was therefore blown away when Randy Noojin came on stage and effectively resurrected Pete Seeger. Not only is Noojin a dynamite folk singer who performs around a dozen Seeger classics, he's written a brilliant script that perfectly captures the spirit, personality, and passions of Pete Seeger.
There are thousands of creative decisions that go into a show. In virtually each case, Noojin has somehow managed to make the perfect choice. The result is not only the finest musical of the festival, but a stellar production ready for a commercial run as is.
If you'd enjoy time-traveling to the 1950s and 1960s under the gentle yet powerful guidance of a masterful writer/actor/singer, Seeger awaits you.
By: Deirdre Donovan
Playing a banjo and singing 15 Pete Seeger songs, Noojin disappears into Seeger's persona and whisks us back and forward in time through the American 20th Century.
Set on a small stage at a fundraiser for U.S.-Cuban normalization in Washington, D.C., Noojin's Seeger is the epitome of a political activist. No stranger to the New York International Fringe Festival, Noojin debuted his solo show Hard Travelin' with Woody at the Fringe five years ago-and it's still rambling around the country on tour...Noojin proves with Seeger that he's no one-note performer.
Perhaps the play's real strength is that Noojin never over-reaches himself. No special effects, expensive props, or fancy clothes. Noojin simply breathes new life into the old songs. And, oh yes. Noojin balances Seeger's signature songs with a few less-known ones. There's "Goodnight Irene," "If I Had a Hammer," "Turn, Turn, Turn," "What Did You Learn in School Today?," "Wasn't That a Time?," "Where Have All the Flowers Gone?," and that civil rights anthem "We Shall Overcome."
No question that Noojin has the audience under a spell as he crooned out the various songs and invited everybody to join in. While the sing-alongs were heart-warming, it was when Noojin shared the particulars of Seeger's life story that the audience really leaned in. Noojin pinpoints some of Seeger's life-changing moments (his marriage to Toshi-Aline Ota) and the horrors of being blacklisted during the McCarthy era...Anybody who is a Seeger fan should make a bee-line to wherever this song-fest is humming.
Meryl Danziger, author of "Sing It!," a Seeger bio for young readers
"Seeger, along with Randy's other one-man show Hard Travelin' with Woody are masterful, evocative, comprehensive, conscientious, and important, and I hope Randy will be able to bring them to wherever you are."
The Americana Music Foundation of Buffalo
By: Kevin Cox
"Noojin disappeared into the role . . . a polished and subtle performer who gives this Seeger small gesture, fierce gaze and a devilish sweet smile. The incongruity of Seeger's ferocity and gentle, loving manner come together perfectly in this bravura performance . . . that captured the spirit of art embracing love of country. "
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