Jazz is an ever-evolving music genre. Since its birth in 1819, many people have added richness to its rhythm, improvisations, and timbre. Even before mentioning the name, what comes to mind about who represents jazz is Luis Armstrong, the most outstanding jazz soloist in history. His powerful jazz playing and signature ragged vocals are a music and pop culture cornerstone. His influence on the music scene is so vast that he is named one of today’s music shapers. It is not an overstatement when it is said that he not only made an indelible mark on American music but made waves around the world. The music we experience today is partly thanks to his contributions. Thanks to him, jazz was heralded as a true art form.
Many artists have become the subject of books, movies, and theatre shows. However, a person is given the highest regard when his story is brought to the stage. There is a particular craft that can only be felt in musicals. The larger-than-life acting, exuberant singing, and detailed choreography capture stories like no other art form. The stage is a place to explore human emotions and experiences more profoundly and creatively. That is why Luis Armstrong, his jazzy life, and his overwhelming influence on the music scene deserve a musical. What better way to celebrate such a music icon than through music?
A love letter to the most outstanding jazz soloist of all time, A Wonderful World is conceived. This show takes on the challenge of telling the complex story of someone in the limelight who had a hard life. This show is coming to the Cadillac Palace Theatre this October. Grab the opportunity and watch this show!
“Long-awaited ‘A Wonderful World’ is wonderful in every way.” – Christine Dolen, ARTBURST
“Flat-out gorgeous and highly entertaining.” – The Miami Herald
“A Wonderful World belongs on Broadway.” – The Jittery
A Wonderful World is a brainchild of British theatre director Christopher Reinshow. Before making this musical, he was known for his work on the musicals entitled “Taboo,” “Zorro,” “Carmen La Cubana,” and the four-time Tony winner “The King and I.” He had been directing musicals around the world for some time. Finally, the time came when he decided to settle in Miami, Florida. There he discovered the rising theatre company Miami New Drama. While he was watching one of their plays, he was enamored, and when he was asked to direct a stage show with the company, he was sold a hundred percent. The vital question arose: what story will he turn into a musical? While at a boat party, a friend told him he could create a musical about his jazz hero — Luis Armstrong. With Andrew Delaplaine (the musical’s screenwriter), the two researched the life of the jazz icon. Also, they were joined by Aurin Squire, who was tasked to write the musical’s book.
During the development, the challenge of writing a musical about the “person who changed music in a time that changed the course of history” weighed heavily on the director’s back. How will he give musical justice to a celebrated person with a challenged life? Then the facts hit him with an idea. Luis married four times, and he could use their perspectives on the life of the legendary jazz soloist. Like the four seasons, the four women signaled the many stages of his life. Using the creative freedom a director can do in musicals, he also used the four ladies to signify where Luis developed his art. These are New Orleans, Chicago, Hollywood, and Queens, New York.
The first lady Luis was married to was Daisy Parker. Daisy worked as a prostitute in Gretna, Louisiana. As a teenager, Luis constantly visited the town’s red light district, delivering coal to the brothels. While working as a coal delivery boy, he was first introduced to jazz. Even with the grimness of the place, he received his first trumpet there. Daisy taught him to be steadfast and offered him his first taste of romance. They were together for five years and adopted a child.
During the decades-long great migration in the early 1900s, Luis was among the African Americans who moved cities. He came across Chicago and stayed there for a while. There he met Lil Hardin. Lil was a professional classical and jazz pianist and played amongst the greatest during those times. She was credited as the person who refined the unpolished talent Luis had. She taught him the workings of the higher-class life in Chicago and boosted his career to greater heights. However, Luis left her in 1931.
While touring, Luis met Alpha Smith. Alpha was a fan of the then-rising jazz player and watched his shows at any given chance. She was a maid, and her beauty radiated. Luis found the care and sweetness in her, which he never saw in her past wives. However, their relationship became sour when they moved to Hollywood, and Alpha left him for his drummer.
The final wife is Lucille Wilson. Luis met her performing as a showgirl, and even with her grace on the stage, it was not a life she wanted to continue. She dreamt of a companion, and she found it with Luis. Together, they bought a house in Queens, New York. She was known for her patience with Luis and understood that his music came first.
From their point of view, the musical was pieced together. Luis’s songs and new compositions were written explicitly for the women of her life.
“A giant biography of Louis Armstrong.” – Christine Dolen, ARTBURST
Supposedly, A Wonderful World will open in March 2020. But due to the pandemic, the show was halted and could only show previews. The show finally opened in December 2021. It was well received by critics and is currently on its pre-Broadway run, leading in many theatres nationwide. It will first play in New Orleans, where the story began, at the Saengers Theatre and will move to Chicago at the Cadillac Palace Theatre. The musical will soon reach Broadway.
From October 11 to October 29, A Wonderful World will be shown at the Cadillac Palace Theatre. The cast will soon be announced, but you can secure your tickets early. Experience jazz music through the lens of Luis Armstrong’s life. Click the “Get Tickets” link to reserve yours.