John Douglas Thompson, described by the New York Times as one of the most compelling classical stage actors of his generation, will make his Long Wharf Theatre debut in Satchmo at the Waldorf, by Terry Teachout, directed by Artistic Director Gordon Edelstein. The one-man show will take place Wednesday, October 3 through Sunday, November 4 on Stage II. The press performance takes place Wednesday, October 10 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $45-$65.
March 1971. Backstage at the Empire Room of the Waldorf Astoria Hotel. Louis Armstrong, the greatest trumpet player in the world, sits in his dressing room trying to pull himself together to do one final show. Because as long as they clap, Louis will go out there and play. His mind wanders through the amazing journey of his life and his complex relationship with his manager Joe Glaser. In a tour de force performance, Thompson will explore the minds and hearts of an American musical icon and the man behind the legend.
Teachout, a critic with the Wall Street Journal, was inspired to write the play after completing his biography of Armstrong entitled Pops: A Life of Louis Armstrong. There were aspects of the musician’s life that evoked more questions, particularly his career-long dealings with Glaser, Teachout said. Not knowing how Armstrong exactly felt about the man who steered his career, Teachout felt there was a dramatic truth to be explored that was absent from the biographical record. “The play itself is probably not what you’d expect,” said Teachout on his blog. “Most one-man shows about famous people are unchallenging, sweet-tempered exercises in hagiography. Not Satchmo at the Waldorf. I’ve tried to show Armstrong as he really was and make him speak the way he really spoke … I’ve also tried to suggest the knotty complexity of his quasi-filial relationship with (Joe) Glaser, an ex-gangster from Chicago who ran his career with an iron hand.”
Thompson, the subject of critical accolades and a recent New Yorker profile, is making his Long Wharf Theatre debut. He recently appeared in the Goodman Theatre production of The Iceman Cometh with Nathan Lane and Brian Dennehy. He also appeared in Henry IV at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater. He has appeared in Julius Caesar opposite Denzel Washington. His off-Broadway credits include King Lear with Sam Waterston at The Public Theater; Macbeth (title role), Oroonoko and Othello (Obie Award, Lucille Lortel Award, Joe A. Callaway Award and Drama League Award nomination at Theatre for a New Audience; The Forest opposite Dianne Wiest at Classic Stage Company; The Emperor Jones at The Irish Repertory Theatre (Joe A. Callaway Award and Lucille Lortel, Drama League and Drama Desk nominations); Women Beware Women at Red Bull Theater and Hedda Gabler at New York Theatre Workshop. Regional credits include Antony and Cleopatra with Kate Mulgrew at Hartford Stage; the title role in Richard III at Shakespeare and Company; Jesus Hopped the A Train at The Wilma Theater (Barrymore Award) and productions at the Williamstown Theatre Festival, New York Stage and Film, Trinity Repertory Company, American Repertory Theater and Yale Repertory Theatre. His television and film credits include “All My Children,” “One Life to Live,” “Law & Order,” “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” Conviction, Michael Clayton, Midway, and Malcolm X.
The creative team is comprised of Lee Savage (sets), Ilona Somogyi (costumes), Stephen Strawbridge (lights), John Gromada (sound.) Hope Rose Kelly is the stage manager.
For more information about Long Wharf Theatre or to purchase tickets, visit www.longwharf.org or call 203-787-4282.