My parents loved Louis Armstrong.
Watching him on TV with them is one of my fond childhood memories particularly growing up in segregated Louisiana. To see African Americans on TV– we were “colored” back then— was a rare treat indeed. Enchanted and perplexed, as a child, I couldn’t reconcile Mr. Armstrong’s exaggerated facial expressions that seemed to be as much a part of his act and performance art, mastering his instrument with ease and enjoyment. I just assumed that’s how one played the trumpet.Some decades later, reviewing the new play, Satchmo, at the Waldorf Westside Theatre in New York City, my smile was nearly as wide as Armstrong’s trademark grin, taking in the masterful one-man tribute to the late, great multi-talented legend. Satchmo’s creator is Terry Teachout, drama critic for The Wall Street Journal. The 90-minute, one-man show, set is the early 1970s is directed by Gordon Edelstein.
Obie winner John Douglas Thompson (The Bourne Legacy, Michael Clayton, Othello, The Emperor Jones) inhabits the lead role as the unconquerable Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong, with a dynamism that not only navigates the uneven terrain of Armstrong’s ascendance from New Orleans, to Chicago, to international acclaim but also the pain and pitfalls of success. A veritable tour de force, Thompson seamlessly transports between character portrayals that are pivotal in Armstrong’s life–among them, his business manager, his devoted wife, his next door neighbor—all spot on with accents and intonation.
The story plays out mostly in a back stage dressing room when we are introduced to “Satchmo” in his declining years with waning health, however, nimble reflections from
earlier career benchmarks pace his life’s iconic significance.
Enhancing the experience is the venue. Cozy and unassuming, the Waldorf Westside Theatre, located at 407 West 43rd between 9th and 10th Avenues is neatly situated in a charming residential neighborhood of midtown Manhattan, a few blocks from trademark marquis lights, neon signs and wide-eyed tourists strolling down Broadway’s famous corridors.
I left the show following applause and ovation with combined feelings of ebullience and reverence; strolled to my hotel on what was notably a perfect spring night in New York City. I couldn’t have been happier to be so close by at the Sheraton New York Times Square, the newly renovated property that first opened its doors in 1962, and over the years has earned a storied legacy.
Music icons have long called this heart-of-Manhattan-hotel their home away from home, welcoming high-profile figures from The Beatles to President Barack Obama. According to hotel staff, if the walls could talk, they would tell stories about history being made and visits from distinguished clientele including A-list celebrities; United States presidents; world leaders; art and sports legends; titans of industry and more. When the hotel first opened with its cutting-edge 53-story structural dip design, it gained fame as New York City’s tallest concrete frame building and its distinct profile remains a highlight on the city’s skyline today.
Conveniently positioned in the heart of Times Square, it is a perfect combination of comfort and Manhattan style. There are 1,781 newly renovated rooms with amenities such as the welcoming Lobby Lounge and Link Café, a full fitness facility with state-of-the-art equipment, the casual Hudson Market restaurant.
The hotel recently underwent a $180 million top-to-bottom renovation! The rooms have elegant touches, breathtaking sky-scape views, roomy bathrooms, and beds that conjure sweet dreams. And, there’s more! Sleek credenzas and wall-mounted
flat panel televisions, allowing guests to easily store luggage on top of and below the furniture, mini-bar units built into the wall offering Starbucks one-cup coffee makers and chaise lounge chairs, which convert into a bed, a bonus for families.
Wine purists take note of special features such as bottomless wine tasting and VIP culinary experiences. Just off the lobby is the “Fireplace Nook” room with plush couches and seating. Theatre goers can grab a beverage before dinner or a show.
My personal favorite is the hotel’s 44th floor Sheraton Club Lounge with panoramic views of Manhattan, easily-accessible power outlets, 24-hour guest access, with coffee and espresso station, and snacks throughout the day. There’s complimentary breakfast and evening hors d’oeuvres.
The weather beckons a trip to New York City and my money’s on a great Broadway show and a great stay at the Sheraton Times Square. May I suggest Satchmo and the Sheraton? Special deals await, find out more at: www.SheratonNewYork.com.
“Satchmo” runs through August 3, 2014; details at http://www.satchmonyc.com/ .