Satchmo’ Suite by Hans Böggild and Doug Innis
Director Hans Böggild Set, Projection, Costumes Denyse Karn Lighting Leigh Ann Vardy
Reviewer Ed Farolan
Wow! What a great show! It's been quite a while since I've seen so much passion and energy in acting. Andrew Moodie (Hubert Clements) and Jeremiah Sparks (Louis Armstrong) were just fantastic in this extremely innovative and creative piece that got rave reviews in Montreal, St. John's, and Halifax. At the end of the performance, the audience cheered and shouted bravos as the actors and musicians returned for a second curtain call.
The soul of the show is the extraordinary impersonation of Louis Armstrong by Jeremiah Sparks. He moved and sang with that gravelly voice like Satchmo; he had that toothy smile and that extroverted personality of this jazz and blues legendary figure.
Andrew Moodie as the fictional character Hubert Clements was an expression of versatility as he delivered in one scene an impression of a holy roller black preacher, and then, transforming his character in one very sensitive scene where he describes the suicide of his father, tears rolling down his eyes, his voice cracked. It was a truly moving scene.
The musicians' timing was perfect. Trumpet player Derry Byrne was exhilarating with a style only Satchmo could deliver. Cellist Colin Matthews performed Bach's Prelude of Six Suites for Solo Cello with extreme precision.
The creative collaboration of Hans Boggild and Doug Innis in the development of "The Satchmo' Suite" was truly a work of musical art. At first, I thought that the nine jazz songs were Satchmo's only to learn from the programme that they were original compositions by Boggild and Innis, inspired, apparently, by Armstrong's "Hot Fives" and "Hot Sevens."
The set by Denyse Karn was simple but effective: a hotel room at centre stage with minimal props, and the musicians surrounding the set with the cellist on stage right and the pianist and trumpeter on stage left. Leigh Ann Vardy's lighting, evoking moods and memories, was well executed.
This is a show that truly should not be missed by anyone with an interest in jazz and jazz history. The company continues its Western Canadian tour with performances in Kamloops (Western Canada Theatre) and in Winnipeg (The Manitoba Theatre Centre).
© 2008 Ed Farolan