March 4, 2014

It may surprise you to know that the beloved trumpeter and jazz great Louis Armstrong, whom many remember for his gravelly, grandfatherly voice and bright smile, dropped F-bombs regularly and smoked marijuana religiously. But it might surprise you more to know that this seemingly worldly musical legend had an innocent sensitivity that left him on the short end of business deals and shattered his faith in those he thought were his friends. John Douglas Thompson brings Louis Armstrong blazingly to life at the Westside Theatre in Terry Teachout’s remarkable Satchmo at the Waldorf, with inspired direction by Gordon Edelstein. The play does not pretend to be strictly biographical, but it’s rooted in fact, taking place in a backstage dressing room at the Waldorf Astoria hotel in March 1971, only a few months before Armstrong’s death from a heart attack.

Entertainment Weekly


March 6, 2014

There’s no doubt that Terry Teachout — the distinguished critic and biographer who wrote the new one-man play Satchmo at the Waldorf — intended to show the great trumpeter, singer, and populizer of jazz Louis Armstrong for what he really was: a human being, as vulnerable and conflicted as any other. Indeed, many in the audience at Off Broadway’s Westside Theatre may themselves feel conflicted when they hear the show’s opening line, delivered by the 71-year-old Armstrong after stepping into his dressing room at the Waldorf-Astoria, where he gave his final run of performances in 1970: ”I s— myself tonight.”


March 5, 2014

As depicted in Satchmo at the Waldorf, Louis Armstrong seems to suffer from multiple-personality disorder: Not only does John Douglas Thompson play the legendary jazz great, but he also voices his Jewish, mobbed-up manager, Joe Glaser, and his young rival, Miles Davis. Despite the resulting focal whiplash, Terry Teachout’s play is a trenchant portrait of the artist, enlivened by Thompson’s brilliant performance. Teachout, the Wall Street Journal’s theater critic, sets the action in 1971, after one of the trumpeter’s final shows at the Waldorf Astoria. Stooped and frail, desperately sucking on an oxygen tank, he’s nonetheless chatty and profane, his exclamations of “Motherf - - ker!” a marked contrast to his genial onstage persona.

New York Daily News


March 4, 2014

From the tone-setting opening line — Louis Armstrong confesses that he’d soiled himself — it’s clear Satchmo at the Waldorf won’t be a sweet little lace-trimmed valentine to the late, great trumpeter or the latest jukebox musical. Terry Teachout, a theater critic, biographer and, now, a playwright, chases something grittier. His lucid one-man play doesn’t pull punches or profanity. The Gordon Edelstein-directed play is set four months before Armstrong’s death in 1971 — and finds the artist taking stock of his life, career and the world at large as the end nears.


March 20, 2014

There is a wonderful Milt Hinton photograph of Louis Armstrong in 1954, standing by his beloved reel-to-reel tape recorders, which he took with him everywhere to record performances and memories. It’s this Armstrong — relaxed, intimate and gregarious — that John Douglas Thompson vividly resurrects in Terry Teachout’s Satchmo at the Waldorf, a one-man show at the Westside Theater. It is March 1971, just months before Armstrong’s death, and from stage right an autumnal shaft of light pierces a dressing room at the Waldorf-Astoria (Lee Savage designed the splendid set) before Mr. Thompson makes his appearance. Stooped, shuffling and dabbing his forehead with his ubiquitous handkerchief, Armstrong is short of breath after a performance and uses an oxygen tank. Over the evening, he tapes his reminiscences as he metamorphoses from a tuxedoed trumpeter to the casually attired homeowner of Corona, Queens, where he lived with his wife Lucille.