There's probably never been a musician in jazz and American pop music who's more roundly beloved than Louis Armstrong (1901-1971). His phenomenal trumpet, joy-filled singing and ebullient personality made him just about impossible to dislike.
He came out of a hard childhood of poverty and prejudice. Playwright Danny Mullen looks at Armstrong from his unpromising early years to his exalted career in "Backstage with Louis Armstrong," which he'll perform Sunday at the Players Theatre in Sarasota.
It's a one-man show in which Mullen portrays Armstrong sitting in his dressing room, regaling visitors with stories and music. Armstrong, at least according to the play, would often entertain guests and well-wishers backstage after a performance.
"This was a man who was at home everywhere in the world, because he was always himself wherever he was," Mullen said. "No affectation. He moved among royalty, but he was always, at some level, pure New Orleans."
Mullen portrays Armstrong, and relates stories of his life and career to the audience, who become Satchmo's backstage guests. Mullen also offers some songs along the way.
Mullen, who hails from Charlotte, N.C., has performed his Louie Armstrong show all over the country. Critics have praised the show because of Mullen's writing and acting, though some have said that his singing, which he usually does to pre-recorded music, doesn't sound much like Louie Armstrong.
Details: 2 p.m. Sunday, The Players Theatre, 838 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota. Tickets: $20. Information: 941-365-2494, www.theplayers.org.
-- Marty Clear