New England Production of Satchmo at the Waldorf Books a Gig in Philly; John Douglas Thompson Again Stars
By Kenneth Jones
Satchmo at the Waldorf, Terry Teachout's new play about musician Louis Armstrong, will make its Philadelphia debut Nov. 16-Dec. 2 in an engagement at The Wilma Theater. The Philly staging follows runs at Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven, CT, and Shakespeare & Company in the Berkshires of Massachusetts.
Long Wharf Theatre artistic director Gordon Edelstein again directs OBIE Award-winning actor John Douglas Thompson in dual roles as Louis Armstrong and his manager, Joe Glaser.
The play by Teachout, a critic, biographer and playwright, is "set backstage at the Empire Room of the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in March 1971," when Armstrong, the greatest trumpet player in the world, "sits in his dressing room trying to pull himself together following his celebrated performance." According to Wilma notes, "His mind wanders through the amazing journey of his life and his complex relationship with his manager Joe Glaser."
Thompson starred in the Wilma staging of Jesus Hopped the 'A' Train, which won him a Barrymore Award in 2004. He recently appeared at the Goodman Theatre in The Iceman Cometh. He played Richard III at Shakespeare & Co. in 2010, and won his OBIE for his portrayal of Othello in a 2009 production at Theater for a New Audience (later reprised for S&Co).
This is Teachout's first play. He's better known as the drama critic for The Wall Street Journal. Satchmo at the Waldorf is billed by Teachout as "a work of fiction, but it is based on and informed by the facts of the lives of Armstrong and Glaser, and though and I made up most of the dialogue, it closely resembles the way they talked in private."
In earlier production notes, Teachout, author of the 2009 biography "Pops: A Life of Louis Armstrong," said, "Between 1947 and his death in 1971, Armstrong taped hundred of after-hours conversations with his wife, friends, and colleagues in which he revealed a very different side of his personality. Some of these tapes are startlingly intimate, and many of them contain very strong language that Armstrong never used on stage."
For tickets and information, call (215) 546-7824, visit wilmatheater.org, or go to the theatre at 265 South Broad Street in Philadelphia.
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