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  Satchmo at the Waldorf at Court Theatre

Satchmo at the Waldorf

Court Theatre
5535 S. Ellis Avenue Chicago

After one of his final performances, Louis Armstrong retires backstage and begins to reminisce about his incredibly successful career. As the evening unfolds, he reveals an intimate, unknown portrait of the man behind the trumpet and the ever-evolving struggle to live with dignity as a Black musician in a White world. Written with theatrical ingenuity by Terry Teachout, who has entrusted Artistic Director Charlie Newell with the play's Midwest premiere, Armstrong's story is told through the voice of a single actor playing both Armstrong and his Jewish manager Joe Glaser, bringing to life an emotional journey of deep friendship and its tragic destruction. Satchmo at the Waldorf is an intimate exploration of Armstrong's life, legacy, and above all, jazz.

Thru - Feb 14, 2016

Price: $45-$65

Show Type: Drama

Box Office: 773-753-4472

Running Time: 1hr, 30 mins

Court Theatre Seating Chart

  Satchmo at the Waldorf Reviews
  • Highly Recommended
  • Recommended
  • Somewhat Recommended
  • Not Recommended

Chicago Tribune - Recommended

"..."Satchmo" is a solo show. At Court Theatre, Louis Armstrong is played by Barry Shabaka Henley, a very fine actor who was not entirely ready on opening night but who, crucially, comes both with skin clearly in the game and with a vocal instrument that sounds distinct notes in harmony with themselves, which very much evokes Armstrong's signature sound."
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Chris Jones

Chicago Sun Times - Highly Recommended

"...“Satchmo at the Waldorf,” Terry Teachout’s fascinating one-man (three-character) fantasia about Louis Armstrong — now in its Midwest premiere at Court Theatre, where Barry Shabaka Henley is delivering a tour de force performance — brought to mind a story told to me many years ago by a jazz musician and composer."
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Hedy Weiss

Time Out Chicago - Recommended

"...This 2014 solo piece about trumpeter Louis Armstrong appropriately allows a performer to hit a great many notes. The dressing-room confessional is set in 1971, near the end of Armstrong's career, when he was both playing and living at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York; it calls for its actor to play both the aged and weary musician and his longtime manager, Joe Glaser, with additional cameo appearances by Miles Davis. (Though it's nominally set backstage at the Waldorf, designer John Culbert's set suggests a kind of dressing-room-as-limbo that, with Keith Parham's sharp lighting, allows for quick shifts of character.)"
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Kris Vire

Chicago On the Aisle - Recommended

"...Terry Teachout's "Satchmo at the Waldorf," a one-man bio-drama on the life of jazz trumpeter Louis Armstrong, is an affecting, often surprising and raspingly funny alchemy of brass and clay."
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Lawrence B. Johnson

ChicagoCritic - Highly Recommended

"...A note from Teachout explains which parts of the play are real, and which fictional. His explanation makes the end a tragedy for both Armstrong and Glaser, who did indeed care for his friend, but had his own flaws and pressures. Teachout and director Charles Newell were quite excited about this project, and the result is an astonishing examination of how the compromises an artist makes take a toll on him psychologically. It's not only educational, it's riveting. Deep down, Armstrong says, jazz is happy. Never mind what's on his pants."
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Jacob Davis

Chicago Stage Standard - Recommended

"...The Court Theatre production is the Midwest premiere, and under Newell's direction it is a success. Armstrong's life is effectively portrayed as a fight, both with himself and with the many people who took him for granted. In some ways, Armstrong had to be submissive to people like Glaser; Miles Davis criticized him for playing into what the white people wanted from his performances. His fellow African Americans called him "Uncle Tom" for this reason. But Armstrong says he didn't mind. As long as he could play his horn, he was happy. "Soul is soul," he says, as if removed from the politics of it."

Meredith Boe

Around The Town Chicago - Recommended

"...I was absolutely fascinated watching Barry Shabaka Henley's performance in the Court Theatre's production of "Satchmo at the Waldorf". Although I was certainly aware of Louis Armstrong as a performer, I knew very little about him as a person. Henley's raspy-voiced portrayal made him real for me."
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Carol Moore

NewCity Chicago - Recommended

"...“Satchmo” does not try to hide its reverence for its subject. By erasing critical distance, Teachout presents a lovingly constructed ode to an influential figure that most of us likely know too little about. The end result is a play that is less enlightening than simply informative. While hardly a sin, if you’re looking for a more complex and nuanced portrait of Armstrong your search will continue."
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Kevin Greene

Chicago Theatre Review - Highly Recommended

"...The 2016 theater season is still in its infancy, but it will be a tall order producing a play finer than what Court is currently featuring on its stage."
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Peter Thomas Ricci

Chicagoland Theater Reviews - Highly Recommended

"...“Satchmo at the Waldorf” is an exceptionally full-bodied one-man show, thanks to Henley’s commanding and affectionate portrait of Louis and Teachout’s skill at covering as many biographical bases as he does. One suspects that Armstrong had more encounters with racism than he refers to in the show and it would be nice to hear Armstrong’s thoughts on his music beyond the sincerity of his performing and his desire to please his listeners. For all that we can consult Teachout’s fulsome biography. But we still get a full measure of the man. The final verdict is that Armstrong was more than great, he was nice, and he makes for great company at the Court."

Dan Zeff

The Fourth Walsh - Somewhat Recommended

"...There are plenty of fascinating nuggets about Armstrong’s life. Teachout teases out some. We learn his mother was a prostitute. He was married four times. He smoked pot and cussed… a lot! Teachout spends a lot of time telling us about Armstrong’s manager and his black musician rivals. I don’t really care about his professional turmoil. I’m more interested in the man personally. His music inspirations and aspirations. I wanted to know about being married to a fourth wife for thirty years and why he was he even called ‘Satchmo’ and how much pot was he smoking. I was looking for Louis Armstrong unplugged."
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Katy Walsh

Chicago Theater Beat - Highly Recommended

"...Of course, Louis Armstrong's silky-smooth, industrial-strength charm was a spell he cast at a cost. Newell's master touch and Teachout's contagious compassion bring out in Henley the rough edges and unseen undertows of a complex career. It took, it seems, a greedster like Glaser to deliver Louis' lovely legacy. Joe didn't make him what he was but, no question, the grasper gave him glory. One more deal with the devil-that's showbiz in America for better and worse."

Lawrence Bommer

  Satchmo at the Waldorf Photo Gallery

   This show has been Jeff Recommended*

*The designation of "Jeff Recommended" is given to a production when at least ONE ELEMENT of the show was deemed outstanding by the Joseph Jefferson Awards Committee.

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