For David Lutken In Goodspeed Show, It's A Matter Of Will Power


There’s something about David Lutken that makes him fill some might big American shoes—or cowboy boots—as comfortably as a pair of familiar slippers.

Maybe it’s his easy-going charm and plain speech. Maybe it’s his modesty, his heritage, his directness. Of course, his smooth baritone is mighty pleasant on the ears, too.


Lutken played legendary singer Woody Guthrie for years in theaters across the country with the musical biography Woody Sez, which was presented at Hartford’s TheaterWorks and Westport Country Playhouse.

Now, this time in Connecticut he’ll be playing Will Rogers in Goodspeed Musical’s production of The Will Rogers Follies at the Goodspeed Opera House in East Haddam. The show, which begins previews on Friday, April 13, plays through June 21.

“Both Woody and Will—both from Oklahoma—are probably chagrined to know that they are being played on stage by a guy from Texas,” says Lutken in a call from his sister’s Louisiana farm where he was visiting.


The Rogers role is one he knows well. Lutken performed as Will Rogers during the original Broadway run. The top-tier, talent-filled show—with music by Cy Coleman, lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green, book by Peter Stone, and staging by Tommy Tune—opened in Broadway in 1991 and played nearly 2 ½ years. Lutken was the understudy for Larry Gatlin (of the country group The Gatlin Brothers) who succeeded Keith Carradine in the title role.

Lutken says though Rogers died a generation before he was born, he was well aware of the vaudeville, stage, and motion picture performer, cowboy, humorist, and newspaper columnist who delighted and gently bedeviled those in power with his folkish ways. (Rogers died in a plane crash in 1935 at the age of 55.)