Sunday, January 31, 2016

James Earl Jones II as Satchmo

We went to see "Satchmo at the Waldorf" yesterday at the Court Theatre. It's a one-man show which usually stars Barry Shabaka Henley. But he didn't make it. He was feeling under the weather. So instead, we saw the understudy, James Earl Jones II, who is reportedly a cousin of the legendary voice of Darth Vader.

Let me say first that I enjoyed the understudy's performance in many ways. He plays 3 distinct characters - Louis Armstrong, Joe Glaser, and Miles Davis. He gave each of them a distinct personality and voice, and brought a lot of engagement to each role. I liked watching him act.

But he wasn't completely "off book". There was a prompter sitting one seat away from me. When the actor forgot a line he would call out "Line!" and the prompter would shout out his line. I'm not sure how many times this happened. I didn't actually count. My wife thought about ten times. I thought about forty.

Anyway, let me go on to whine about the way Court Theatre handled things.

The show was supposed to start at 8 pm, but they announced nothing until 8:24 pm. They knew they had a problem well before that, because they had moved a couple of audience members out of their seats, in order to obtain a seat for the prompter. They didn't tell the audience members that this was for a prompter, they just mentioned they needed the seat because they were having "technical difficulties", which in retrospect sounds like a borderline lie.

At 8:24 the guy in charge of audience services came out and announced that the usual actor was sick, said he was sorry the audience wasn't notified earlier, and even apologized for how he was dressed.

I infer from all this the usual actor cancelled kind of late in the day. And that the understudy and the audience services guy had to be called to the theater at the last minute.

One final thing to whine about: There's free parking for the Court Theatre, in a structure that is usually limited access. During performances, the gates are up, so you can just drive in and out freely. Well, last night, the gates were down when it was time to go. They must be on a timer. The show ran at least half an hour late because the show started so late. So our exit was delayed until that got remedied.

That's the end of my whining.
The play itself was enjoyable, so that's the silver lining.

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