‘Satchmo at the Waldorf’ highlights acclaimed stage actor Thompson

Feb. 15, 2016

Hannah Harvey
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Seeing a Broadway show may be considered a once in a lifetime opportunity to some, but UCCS students can do just that this month.

Theatreworks presents “Satchmo at the Waldorf” at the Dusty Loo Bon Vivant Theater Feb. 18 through March 6.

“Satchmo at the Waldorf” is about jazz musician and American icon Louis Armstrong.

The play takes place at New York’s Waldorf Astoria hotel in 1971, a few months before Armstrong’s death. Armstrong is the main character, narrating his own life story to the audience, including his trials, tribulations and supposedly strained relationship with manager Joe Glazer.

Louis Armstrong is portrayed by John Douglas Thompson, who will also play the role of Armstrong’s manager.

“If you want to know what great acting is, alive, up close and personal, this is your chance. He has power, warmth, character and red blood in his veins. He is incredible, and yet always entirely real,” said Murray Ross, artistic director of Theatreworks.

Theater instructor Leah Chandler-Mills said she recommends students attend the play because of Thompson’s charisma on stage.

“Having seen him in person, I think he’s going to be astonishing,” said Chandler-Mills.

“We have never before had an actor of (Thompson’s) reputation and quality on our stage. Not many other theaters have, either,” said Ross.

Ross said he saw Thompson at the sold out show in New York and immediately wanted to bring it to the Theatreworks stage.

The show has toured in three locations in the U.S. so far. These include New York, Los Angeles and now Colorado Springs.

Ross said the life of Armstrong can be inspiring to anyone of any demographic because of his legacy.

“He was the greatest jazz trumpeter of all time, and then became a beloved popular entertainer and singer. Everyone can relate to Louis Armstrong,” Ross said.

The show is an opportunity for students to see an original $150 Broadway show for free. Students should take advantage of this, according to Chandler-Mills.

One aspect of the play is the one-man cast. Even though Thompson is the only actor, he still has an ability to engage the audience in what he is saying.

“As an audience member, you’re allowed to look into a famous person’s private moments. Here, the words and personality come across,” said Chandler-Mills.

“I think it is very, very brave to go out on a stage and it’s all on you. It’s one person, and he has to deliver.”

One aspect of Thompson’s presence is his voice. He can adapt it to fit any character and he does so very well, according to Chandler-Mills.

“His voice is such an amazing instrument. He can be brassy, big, loud and purring. He has a very wide range of characters,” she said.

Armstrong overcame obstacles, which can be inspiring to students, Chandler-Mills said.

“We all have limitations imposed on us and the universality of having to overcome whatever stigma we’re living under will speak to everybody.”