What: "Backstage With Louis Armstrong" featuring Danny Mullens Jr.
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 18
Where: UTC Fine Arts Center, 752 Vine St
In 1964, Louis Armstrong's version of "Hello, Dolly!" knocked The Beatles off the top of Billboard's Hot 100 chart. That scored Armstrong, at 63, a U.S. record as the oldest artist to have a No. 1 song.
Legendary jazz trumpeter and singer Louis Armstrong will come to life Friday night in a one-man musical written and performed by Danny Mullens Jr.
"I saw this show last summer at a festival in North Carolina, which is why I wanted to do it here," says Roland Carter, UTC Department of Music Ruth Holmberg Chair of Music.
"It's a very fine production of his life, and all aspects of Louis Armstrong."
Carter and the Bessie Smith Cultural Center are co-sponsoring the free production at UTC's Fine Arts Center.
Armstrong, nicknamed Satchmo, was a New Orleans trumpet player and singer who made a lasting impact on jazz music. He was known for an irrepressible personality, his improvisational trumpet riffs as well as pioneering scat singing.
Carter says Mullens has Satchmo's gravelly voice down so well that "sometimes when I talk to Danny, I think he's always in character."
In the performance, the actor carries all the dialogue, which Carter says consists of conversations backstage in the trumpeter's dressing room.
"He talks with people who come in, makes gumbo as Louis used to do in his dressing room. He talks about the aspects of his life growing up, being an ambassador for the country," Carter says.
Mingled throughout the dialogue are almost a dozen songs, including Armstrong's signature versions of "Hello, Dolly!" and "What a Wonderful World."
Carter believes there is a generation of young people today who are unfamiliar with this legendary musician, and this play is a comprehensive way to introduce them. He says the production is a way to kick off the coinciding M.L. King/presidential inauguration weekend.
It's a "wonderful production," he says, "about an American who served as an ambassador for his country, came up through some real struggles -- poverty, racial issues -- and became a legendary performer."
Contact staff writer Susan Pierce at email@example.com or 423-757-6284.