Arts / Performing Arts

Discover the Woman Behind the Legendary Louis Armstrong at Fort Worth’s Jubilee Theatre

"Lil and Satchmo" Explores The Relationship Between Lil Hardin Armstrong and Her Ex-Husband With a Musical Play

BY // 02.14.22

Founded in 1981 by Rudy and Marian Eastman, Fort Worth’s Jubilee Theatre is the original home of African American theater in North Texas. A mainstay of Sundance Square since the ’90s, the Jubilee is currently celebrating its 41st season, dubbed “A Brighter Day” (the theater was forced to close for 18 months during the pandemic), with a performance of “Lil & Satchmo: A Play With Music” through February 27.

Written by Jo Morello and directed by Khira Hailey, the music-fueled performance showcases the works of both jazz icon Louis Armstrong (nicknamed Satchmo) and his second wife (of four), Swing Queen Lil Hardin Armstrong, while exploring their love story.

On my very first visit to Jubilee Theatre, I was surprised by how small the space was. There are only 143 seats, and it makes the experience intimate. But the fact that we were up close and personal in the second row quickly faded as the play began.

Louis Armstrong Lil and Satchmo
“Lil & Satchmo” plays at Fort Worth’s Jubilee Theatre this February. (Courtesy)

Opening on a scene of Lil playing “St. Louis Blues” on the piano at a tribute concert to the late Louis in Chicago in 1971, a trip into the past begins when a ghost of Louis appears in front of her. Played by Sydney Hewitt, Lil is the star of the show. She sings, dances, and tells the incredible story of how she made Louis famous. Davian Jackson plays Louis, who Lil cannot seem to distance herself from despite his tendency to cheat.

During the two-hour show, you’ll hear classic jazz songs like “When the Saints Go Marching In,” “Hello Ma Baby,” and more. You’ll also discover the heartbreaking story of how Lil Armstrong struggled to get credited for her work that made her husband famous.

Jason Hallman, Kris Black Jasper, Crystal Williams, and Ron Johnson also star in the talented ensemble cast.

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Book your tickets now for “Lil & Satchmo” before the play closes on February 27. Jubilee Theatre will be debuting “Over Forty,” a musical chronicling four women who are fighting their introduction into middle-ageism, this spring.

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