‘Satchmo at the Waldorf’ matches impactful design with fantastic acting

Feb. 29, 2016

Eleanor Sturt
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(5/5 stars)

“Satchmo” is a nickname given to the famous Louis Armstrong, due to his satchel-like mouth, which is said to have influenced the singer’s unique sound.

Theatreworks is putting on a travelling play, “Satchmo at the Waldorf,” through March 6. The show is a one-man play, performed by the excellent John Douglas Thompson, as he tells the story of Armstrong’s life.

“Satchmo at the Waldorf” has already been performed in New York and Los Angeles and has been given outstanding reviews. Thompson, the star of the show, is an award-winning actor and has a wide range of roles in his repertoire, having been in 33 of 37 Shakespeare plays.

Thompson portrays three characters throughout: Armstrong himself, Armstrong’s manager Joe Glacier and Miles Davis.

Thompson switches in and out of characters in an instant as he tells the story to the audience. The actor perfectly embodies Armstrong, mastering the performer’s raspy voice and joyful gait.

Although “Satchmo at the Waldorf” cannot encompass Armstrong’s entire life and all the hardships that came with it, the play does highlight certain areas, including Armstrong’s relationship with Glacier and the slander received from other jazz artists of the time.

Not only was the show beautifully acted, but the set, designed by Lee Savage as Armstrong’s dressing room at the Waldorf, entices the audience to listen, even before Thomas enters the stage.

The acting and set is accompanied by the sound design of John Gromada, which plays portions of some of Armstrong’s most famous pieces, including “Summertime” and “West End Blues.”

The set and sound design complement the calming and playful attitude of Thompson as he guides the audience through his relationship with Glacier.

“Satchmo at the Waldorf” is an excellent play, with stunning designs matched by phenomenal acting.

Students can attend Theatreworks shows for free. Book tickets online at www.theatreworkscs.org.