March 21, 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....
Mr. Teachout, The Wall Street Journal's drama critic, is an Armstrong biographer, and Mr. Thompson--who appeared in productions of "Satchmo" at the Long Wharf Theater and Shakespeare & Company--certainly knows these characters. As directed by Gordon Edelstein, Mr. Thompson offers dazzling arias, at one point toggling between Armstrong and Glaser in a bravura pyrotechnical display. By the show's end, you sense the profound fortitude that lay beneath the avuncular surface of this giant, and you are newly appreciative of his singular place in history.
On Wednesday John had to miss both performances owing to a pinched nerve. Michael Early, John's understudy, covered for him, carrying a script (he hasn't had time to learn the entire play yet). The New Yorker was there:
With so little stage business to ornament the action, and no chemistry generated by other actors, it's the kind of distilled performance that thrills and terrifies, or obviously falters. Early was mellowly authoritative--he improvised, as Armstrong would have, when he couldn't quite get back to the script in time. Though he had to turn the pages, the act seemed synonymous with Armstrong's searching through the catalogue of his memories. At the end, the audience shouted and applauded with real feeling, and when Early took a bow he shared with us a look of relief. We'd all participated in a delightful pact: we'll watch you catch this curveball, you'll pretend like catching it is nothing....
For the record, John returned to the show last night, but it's nice to know that he's very well covered in case things go wrong.
Posted March 21, 2014 10:00 AM