Satchmo at the Waldorf

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Photograph: T Charles Erickson
Satchmo at Waldorf

Satchmo at the Waldorf. Westside Theatre (see Off Broadway). By Terry Teachout. Directed by Gordon Edelstein. With John Douglas Thompson. Running time: 1hr 30mins. No intermission.

Satchmo at the Waldorf: In brief

The impressive John Douglas Thompson stars as aging horn god Louis Armstrong (as well as Miles Davis and manager Joe Glaser) in this dressing-room solo play, which marks the playwriting debut of Wall Street Journal theater critic Terry Teachout. Gordon Edelstein directs the NYC premiere.

Satchmo at the Waldorf: Theater review by Helen Shaw

Virtuosity abounds in Satchmo at the Waldorf, critic-biographer Terry Teachout’s soliloquy-play about Louis Armstrong. There's jazz on a reel-to-reel tape in Armstrong’s Waldorf dressing room, a welter of gleefully profane detail in text and set, and a marathon-strong performance by powerhouse John Douglas Thompson, playing a 70-year-old Armstrong; his Mafia-connected manager, Joe Glaser; and even, briefly, Miles Davis, squinting out of a neon glare. All these arias, though, can’t impart narrative tension, a reason to churn on for 90 minutes. Satchmo could play 200 high Cs? Something else makes a piece of music.

It’s 1971, and Armstrong is looking back, holding forth on his astonishing life. The piece has information galore, but Teachout focuses on two concerns: Glaser’s end-of-life betrayal, and the groundbreaking musician’s relationship to the black audience. These days, Armstrong laments, only whites come: “They look like a carton of eggs sitting there.” Teachout and director Gordon Edelstein have Thompson turn that joke out into the audience, pitching his sawmill growl straight at us and, for a moment, we feel another, more dangerous show lurking beneath the dutiful one. The rest of the time, though, Satchmo tells the tale, but doesn't quite swing.—Theater review by Helen Shaw

Click here for discount Broadway and Off Broadway tickets.

Event phone: 212-239-6200
Event website: http://satchmonyc.com
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