Alec Wilkinson, a protégé of William Maxwell whose New Yorker articles have long been one of the very best reasons to read that magazine, has now written a profile of John Douglas Thompson, who is currently appearing in the Goodman Theatre’s revival of Eugene O’Neill’s The Iceman Cometh and will be starring later this summer in my own Satchmo at the Waldorf.
Not at all surprisingly, the piece, which is called “Stage Secret,” is first rate, and it includes a vivid and accurate account of the day that I took John to the Armstrong Archives to listen to Satchmo’s private tapes for the first time. It also contains this amusing confession:
Thompson is a little nervous about playing a man who was so widely known, “because people might judge me on my ability to portray him as they recall him,” he says. “When you don’t look like him, you don’t sing like him, and you don’t play the trumpet like him, then, yeah, I got a lot to worry about.”
I’m not worried.
I should point out, however, that the profile does contain a small but significant error that somehow escaped the notice of the magazine’s vaunted fact-checking department: John is not “creating” the double role of Louis Armstrong and Joe Glaser. That was done last September by Dennis Neal, who starred in the first professional production of Satchmo at the Waldorf in Orlando, Florida, giving a wonderful performance that I will never forget.
If you subscribe to The New Yorker, you can read “Stage Secret” on line by going here. Otherwise, you’ll have to buy a copy of this week’s issue.
UPDATE: I just heard from the relevant person at The New Yorker, who wrote to apologize for the error. “The checker on that piece is new and didn’t know the theatrical meaning of ‘creating’ a role,” he told me. I’m impressed that I received so prompt a response.