This section includes information about the production, cast, staff, venue, and crew.
|Attendance Type||Offline – In Person|
|Event Status||On Schedule|
|Venue or Network (Cadillac Theater)||151 W. Randolph St. Chicago, IL 60603|
|Performance Date||October 28, 2023|
|First Performance At This Venue||October 12, 2023|
|Last Performance At This Venue||October 29, 2023|
|Tickets Starting At||$35.00|
|Duration||2 hours and 15 Minutes|
|Louis Armstrong||James Monroe Iglehart|
|Lincoln Perry||DeWitt Fleming, Jr.|
|King Joe Oliver||Gavin Gregory|
|Daisy Parker||Khalifa White|
|Lil Hardin||Jennie Harney-Fleming|
|Alpha Smith||Brennyn Lark|
|Lucille Wilson||Ta’rea Campbell|
|Scene/ Set Design||Adam Koch, Steven Royal|
|Costume Design||Toni-Leslie James|
|Lighting Design||Cory Pattak|
|Sound Design||Kai Harada|
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With the wives of Louis Armstrong providing the narrative, the focus is balanced, maybe even leaning towards the wives’ lives and perspectives of who Louis Armstrong was. Whether it was the hustler from down South who became big in Chicago, the man with the captivating smile on screen, or the womanizer who seemingly wasn’t faithful to a single woman he claimed to love. While I wouldn’t say this is a warts-and-all portrayal, there is clearly the desire to give you an honest idea of who Mr. Armstrong was beyond a smiling trumpet player.
- Dialog: Cursing and use of the N-word
- Violence: Acknowledgement of violence during the civil rights movement
- Sexual Content: Innuendo
- Miscellaneous: Smoking, drug use, and drinking
Other Noteworthy Information
The show is split into four chapters, starting with his early years in New Orleans and then in Chicago. After the intermission, he is in Hollywood and later New York. Each chapter features one of Armstrong’s wives.
Please Note: This character guide is not an exhaustive list of every cast member, and character descriptions may contain what can be considered spoilers.
A man who started from nothing and, with the gift of a trumpet, became one of the biggest jazz singers who has, or will ever, live.
- The actor is also known for their role in “Helluva Boss.”
Professionally known as Stepin Fetchit, Perry was one of Armstrong’s many mentors, who helped him learn how to sell on camera like he does on stage.
King Joe Oliver
Armstrong’s inspiration at a time, King Joe was the man to work for in Chicago, and it is under King Joe Louis gained notable experience and met his second wife.
A sex worker by trade with a chip on her shoulder, Daisy didn’t really take Louis all that seriously until he made it big, and then she wanted to live the life he promised.
Talented in her own right, but her gender holding her back from deserved success, Lil Hardin managed and mentored Louis to the best of her abilities to help him break away from King Joe and become a legend in his own right. Ultimately, being portrayed as the person who laid down the foundation for Armstrong to be seen as one of the best in the world.
Armstrong’s third wife is shown to be nice, simple, easy to sweep off her feet, and less ambitious than Lil. However, while being less ambitious than Lil was originally an asset, her not really being able to keep up with Louis, in more ways than one, became a problem.
The final wife is Lucille, who was a background performer before Louis, was the one who ultimately got him to settle down. Though, like with many of Armstrong’s wives, one could submit, their beginning was definitely murky as Louis seemed to be unable to keep it in his pants or have his eyes and hands wander.
Our Rating: Mixed (If Affordable)
James Monroe Iglehart As Louis Armstrong
I’m not going to say Iglehart deserves accolades for his performance as Armstrong, for there is more needed than imitating Armstrong’s iconic voice and making him a comical character. However, there is no denying his star power and charisma carried the show and helped pushed this from fully feeling akin to a Lifetime movie that was able to afford the music rights.
No Ella Fitzgerald
Fully acknowledging Ella Fitzgerald has a huge story of her own, I do feel like completely omitting her role in Armstrong’s career, and the music they created, left a gaping hole. I’d even submit that her absence is felt increasingly as we go from one wife to the next, for while Armstrong and Fitzgerald were reportedly never in a romantic relationship, it seems their musical marriage was perhaps one of Armstrong’s best relationships.
I’d dare say, just because of how “A Wonderful World” is written in a very glossy and overview way, it might have been better to focus on their shared star power to bolster this musical than rely on Armstrong’s rags-to-riches story, which is given nothing of note in “A Wonderful World.”
On The Fence
While The Wives Are Distinct, They Aren’t Assets To The Story
It’s very difficult to both recognize that Louis Armstrong’s wives played a role in his life, and they serve as the female leads, while also noting they aren’t necessarily assets to the musical, in terms of being hooks that can get people to buy tickets. Yes, Daisy, a sex worker from New Orleans, is comical at times. Also, Lil Hardin is allowed to shine via her business acumen, and his third wife, Alpha, is allowed to show the challenges of trying to be married to a star like Armstrong, who, because of his work ethic, could make you feel insecure.
Heck, even his last wife, Lucille, is featured, and you can see him, because of her and his age at the time, settling down. But, even with giving these ladies enough of a focus to show them as individuals with a life and story before Mr. Armstrong, they are just names and personalities. They aren’t pushed enough to feel like they should be treated as featured players who control the narrative or take a notable part of the story of who Louis Armstrong was. If not, if I may be so bold, almost make it feel like, rather than this be about Armstrong and have him as the lead character, this instead being an ensemble, with Armstrong damn near a Trojan Horse to allow his wives to shine.
“A Wonderful World” is filled with jokes, including during Iglehart interacting with the audience during “I’ll Be Glad When You’re Dead, You Rascal You.” But the humor is more often than not corny. I’m not saying you won’t ever laugh, but considering this isn’t a made-for-families production, since there are gags like Armstrong’s genitals being his trumpet, behind a screen where you can only see a silhouette, you’d might expect better.
It’s Generic Broadway Fare
But perhaps the real problem is that “A Wonderful World” is overall generic. It’s formulaic in its opening number, its choreography, minus the tap dancing and spotlight on Step n Fetch It and the way the ladies sing? It’s Broadway belting for the back of the room, and outside of Iglehart modifying his voice, nothing feels all that personalized. There isn’t any real soul to what we see.
I’d say, similar to Chadwick Boseman in “Get On Up,” it is all about performance when it comes to “A Wonderful World” in terms of singing the songs loud enough, hitting the moves the choreographer came up with, and providing a sense of entertainment. But as for really creating something that can feel like the definitive biopic for Louis Armstrong? Making you feel stirred to the point of dancing and wanting to sing along? This is by no means what casual or hardcore fans deserve.
Who Is This For?
I would say this is less for people who are fans of Louis Armstrong and more so fans of people who like musicals the same way horror fans can like bad and generic slasher films, just because it’s the genre they love.
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Check out our Live Performance page for our latest reviews and recommendations.
A Wonderful World – Overview
As a, admitted, casual fan of Louis Armstrong, I must admit I was disappointed. Even setting aside the lack of Ella Fitzgerald and her major part in his career, there is something about how much his wives play a role in the musical that does feel like it takes away from its overall quality. For in focusing mainly on his wives and not too much about his collaborators, beyond mentor King Joe, and potentially Lincoln “Sepin Fetchit” Perry, the person who is the hook doesn’t feel to be the star, but rather part of an ensemble with people/characters who aren’t given something for you to praise for they are not doing beyond what is expected.
James Monroe Iglehart As Louis Armstrong - 82%
No Ella Fitzgerald - 64%
While The Wives Are Distinct, They Aren't Assets To The Story - 73%
The Humor - 75%
It's Generic Broadway Fare - 72%
- James Monroe Iglehart As Louis Armstrong
- It’s Generic Broadway Fare
- The Humor
- While The Wives Are Distinct, They Aren’t Assets To The Story
- No Ella Fitzgerald