October 18, 2012
TT: Yet another rave for Satchmo at the Waldorf
Neil Genzlinger of the New York Times gives a big thumbs-up to Satchmo at the Waldorf:
Reviewing a play is one thing; writing a play is quite another. Terry Teachout, drama critic for The Wall Street Journal, makes this hat-switching look far easier than it is with his first play, the one-man show "Satchmo at the Waldorf," receiving a skillful production at the Long Wharf Theater here.
Mr. Teachout has done a fine job of building a fiction-plus-fact theater piece from his biography "Pops: A Life of Louis Armstrong," and John Douglas Thompson brings the script to life with a smart, sure performance. Mr. Thompson conjures not only Armstrong but also Armstrong's manager, Joe Glaser, who was white....
Mr. Teachout weaves his considerable knowledge about Armstrong's life and place in the jazz pantheon around the relationship between Armstrong and Glaser, a blunt man who arranged just about every aspect of Armstrong's career but had ties to the mob. Glaser had died a few years before the action here takes place, and Mr. Thompson's Armstrong minces no words in conveying that he is still bitter about being slighted in Glaser's will. The details of why he is so angry form the climax of "Satchmo," and a failure-to-communicate twist ends the story on a bittersweet note.
None of this would work without a top-notch performance, and Mr. Thompson delivers one, switching convincingly between Armstrong and Glaser with a shift of voice and posture and a little help from Stephen Strawbridge's lighting.
Mr. Thompson and his director, Gordon Edelstein, make the wise decision not to try for an Armstrong impersonation; a good actor doesn't need cheap mimicry....
Read the whole thing here.
Posted October 18, 2012 12:00 AM