NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — From his first recordings in the early 1920s to his death in 1971 in Queens, legendary jazz musician Louis Armstrong played the world.
The Armstrong we don’t know is currently being played out in a new off-Broadway show called “Satchmo at the Waldorf.”
In an in-studio interview with CBS 2’s Dana Tyler, playwright Terry Teachout said the one-man bio play is about Armstrong as he reflects on his life before his last gig, three months before his death in 1971.
“He’s backstage in his dressing room at the Waldorf Astoria here in New York, and he’s thinking about what happened and why,” Teachout said.
“Satchmo at the Waldorf,” which is directed by Gordon Edelstein, is running until Aug. 3 at the Westside Theatre Upstairs in Manhattan.
The play aims to show a side of Armstrong that America didn’t see and touches on the struggles he faced, such as feeling abandoned by his black fans in the years after World War II.
“The public Armstrong is real,” Teachout said. “He was, I think, a fundamentally happy, optimistic man. But he wasn’t a fool. He knew the score. He grew up in the roughest part of New Orleans, born in 1901. His mother was a prostitute. And the Armstrong we show you in this play is a guy who can talk in a very, very tough way … about what he was saw and knew about a black man in America.”
The show’s star, John Douglas Thompson, said he was attracted to the challenge that performing in the one-man show offered. He plays the roles of Armstrong’s manager, Joe Glaser, and Miles Davis — as well as, of course, Satchmo.
“I think the way I’ve tried to approach playing it is been really trying to use Terry’s words and bring forth his Armstrong that we really don’t know much about,” Thompson said. ” … So it gives me a lot of ground to cover, a more personal Armstrong.”
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