Satchmo at the Waldorf Opens Off -Broadway Feb 15
John Douglas Thompson Stars in Terry Teachout Play
By: Charles Giuliano - Feb 05, 2014
This year three of the four major Berkshire theatre companies have productions in New York on and off Broadway. Last summer’s hit musical for Barrington Stage Company, On the Town, will open on Broadway during the upcoming fall season. Several plays by Barrington’s artistic fellow, Mark St. Germain, have toured including Freud’s Last Session and Becoming Dr. Ruth which is currently Off-Broadway.
For the first time Shakespeare & Company in partnership with Long Wharf is sending a production to New York. Satchmo at the Waldorf, starring John Douglas Thompson, a member of the S&Co theatrical family, appears as Louis Armstrong in the first play written by Wall Street Journal drama critic Terry Teachout.
Over the years Williamstown Theatre Company has enjoyed a reputation as the summer home of Broadway. Under artistic director, Jenny Gersten, who has programmed her final season for WTF, three productions have and will reach New York. Last year it was the musical Far from Heaven and currently the musical Bridges of Madison County. Recently it was announced that Elephant Man starring Bradley Cooper will be Broadway bound.
When actors, directors, playwrights and theatre professionals make commitments to endure the short rehearsal times and comments to the short summer season in the Berkshires it makes a difference when production have the potential to move on.
This is particularly significant when, as in the case of Satchmo at the Waldorf, it is a world premiere for the company which retains a percentage of the rights. Points on revivals like Elephant Man bring more prestige than revenue.
With three of the four major theatre companies sending productions to New York and regional theaters that raises the visibility for Berkshire Theatre on a national level. In addition to Tanglewood, Jacob’s Pillow and several major museums it makes the region one of nation’s foremost arts and cultural destinations during the busy summer season.
S&Co Press Release
Shakespeare & Company along with Artistic Director Tony Simotes is proud to pay tribute to OBIE Award-winning actor John Douglas Thompson for his upcoming performance in Satchmo at the Waldorf, which hits New York City’s Westside Theatre for an Off-Broadway run beginning February 15. The run is open-ended.
Shakespeare & Company partners with the Long Wharf Theatre and Executive Producer Joey Parnes (Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike) to bring this exciting production to New York audiences. Satchmo at the Waldorf marks the first of Shakespeare & Company’s producing ventures in the city.
Distinguished author Terry Teachout’s first play, Satchmo at the Waldorf, was produced at Shakespeare & Company in 2012 where it received its New England premier. It was directed by Gordon Edelstein, Artistic Director of the Long Wharf Theatre. After playing to critical acclaim and sold-out houses here in Lenox, Satchmo at the Waldorf moved to Connecticut’s Long Wharf Theatre for another successful run.
The time is March of 1971. Louis Armstrong, the greatest jazz musician of the twentieth century, is backstage at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, preparing for what will be his last performance. And though he was a radiantly optimistic man who was rarely seen in public without a smile, it turns out that there was more to Satchmo—much more—that few were privy to. John Douglas Thompson plays the challenging double role of Armstrong and Joe Glaser, his mob-connected manager. As Armstrong relaxes in his dressing room, we listen to him recount his rise to fame, and wonder whether he paid too high a price for it. Teachout shows you the private Armstrong, charming and angry—and bluntly, shockingly honest.
“I never thought that Satchmo at the Waldorf would make it to New York,” says Teachout. “But, then, I never thought that it would be performed anywhere. Yet it happened, and it happened in very large part because of my friends at Shakespeare & Company, from Elizabeth Aspenlieder and Tony Simotes on down, who backed me to the hilt right from the start. Like Gordon and John, they all believed in what I couldn't imagine—and they were right. I bless them for their absolute confidence on this great day.”
“As a musician myself before I fell in love with theatre,” says Simotes, “the story of Louis Armstrong, who broke through so many barriers of racial hatred, simply sang to me in a special way. I said ‘yes’ and gave the green light to gather the necessary talent to see this extraordinary play grace our stage here at Shakespeare & Company. I knew with John Douglas Thompson we had the man to play that famous horn—metaphorically speaking, and with Terry Teachout's remarkable script we needed someone who could champion the play on stage with the delicacy and creativity that a new play needs. That person was Gordon Edelstein. His history with this kind of play and new work meant that we had all the right people in the room and our theater as the place to create this new play's new voice and structure.”
“It is thrilling beyond words to be taking our production of Satchmo at the Waldorf to New York,” says Edelstein. “This extraordinary theatrical event thrilled our audiences and I have every confidence that it will do the same in New York City.”
“Satchmo was a triumph for both theaters,” adds Simotes “Gordon and I decided to take that next step and pursue the dream of producing the play together in New York. With Nicholas J. Puma, my Managing Director, at my side we secured the necessary investors to support our efforts. Board Members and friends of the Company have contributed in such generous ways and we thank them for helping to showcase Shakespeare & Company’s artists, energy and daring in supporting this noble project. I look forward to continuing to nurture, develop and strengthen Shakespeare & Company’s imprint here in Lenox, New York and beyond.”
The design team for the New York production of Satchmo at the Waldorf includes Lee Savage (Scenic Design), Ilona Somogyi (Costume Design), Kevin Adams (Lighting Design) and John Gromada (Sound Design).
Along with Satchmo at the Waldorf, Actor John Douglas Thompson was last seen at Shakespeare & Company in Mother Courage and Her Children (2013), and in the riveting and dynamic title role of Richard III in 2010. Thompson won an OBIE Award for his portrayal of Othello in a 2009 production at Theater for a New Audience, a role that he played to critical acclaim at Shakespeare & Company that same year. Thompson recently finished a run of A Time to Kill on Broadway, and prior to that a very successful run of The Iceman Cometh at the Goodman Theatre with Nathan Lane and Brian Dennehy.