It’s not “Louis Armstrong the Musical”. In fact the one-man, three character show is called Satchmo at the Waldorf and the actor never plays the horn. John Douglas Thompson portrays jazz great Louis Armstrong as it takes place in March of 1971 in his dressing room of the Waldorf-Astoria hotel just after a performance.
He enters the dressing room in an obvious state of exhaustion and heads straight to his oxygen tank. We know that his health is not good. The truth of it is that Armstrong died a few months later in July in his home located in Corona, Queens.
The entire production has him talking to the audience about his career and the two people who helped form it: Fletcher Henderson and Joe Glaser the two others that he portrays.
Armstrong’s dressing room is equipped with a tape recorder as at times, he records some of his experiences. That’s when you will hear bits of his music as well.
Before you get shocked, it’s important to know that Armstrong is using quite amount of the “f” word as well as the infamous “n” word. It does add for the effect of his emotions.
Thompson is totally outstanding with the acting especially when he goes back and forth from Armstrong to another character. Do expect humor in this production based on Terry Teachout’s book entitled, Pops: A Life of Louis Armstrong, who wrote this play as well.
If you are not a history buff on Louis’ life, the Broadway Playbill cites a Louis Armstrong Timeline as well as “This is a work of fiction, freely based on fact”.
Satchmo at the Waldorf is being performed at the Westside Theatre/Upstairs. The theatre itself is wheelchair accessible. However, there is no elevator to the second floor.