By Lisa Petrillo

MIAMI BEACH (CBSMiami) – A University of Miami graduate is among those starring in a new show called “A Wonderful World” at the Colony Theater in Miami Beach.

It’s about the music and life of jazz great Louis Armstrong, but also focuses on the history of race in America. It was originally scheduled to open in the spring of 2020 but was postponed due to the pandemic.

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Juson Williams, who plays Armstrong, spoke to CBS4’s Lisa Petrillo about what it’s like playing this legendary and iconic figure on stage.

“History, that’s number one,” he said. “I didn’t know this life that he lived and how he changed the trajectory of music. I’m a tenor, I’m a first tenor so it’s so crazy when I have to go, ‘well how do you do this and get into that,’ and that  gravely sound in his voice and doesn’t hurt at all. It’s become a method for me, and I’ve learned how to mix and match both so I’m not trying to imitate him.”

Juson Williams playing Louis Armstrong. (CBS4)

The story is told from the perspective of  Armstrong’s four  wives. ‘A Wonderful World’ charts Armstrong’s journey from the birth of jazz in his native New Orleans through his international stardom.

Williams says he learned how to hold a trumpet in Armstrong’s style to capture his essence and to bring audiences into this story.

“It’s a journey of a person he didn’t even know, I don’t think he knew what he was to the extent of what he became. I don’t think he realized that at all and I think that the audiences are going to go on an adventure with us tenfold.”

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The musical also focuses on the complex history of race in America, leading up to the civil rights era.

Nicole Henry, a University of Miami grad who calls South Florida home said the story is also a lesson in history.

“Of course, he grew up in those times and playing in those times when Black people weren’t always allowed in the same stages in the civil rights era, and what it was looked at to be liked by white audiences, to be liked by Black audiences and to be accepted generally. So, this play talks all about that and of course and it’s a love story and it’s hilarious and the talent is amazing.”

Director Christopher Renshaw said Armstrong had his flaws, but in the end the man who changed the trajectory of jazz music was loved.

“He was very likable. He had this crazy life always, ladies, the smoking, and all the rest of it but he was so lovable nobody I have not heard a bad word about Louis as a person,” said Renshaw.

The Miami New Drama presentation of “A Wonderful World: is on stage now at the Colony Theater on Lincoln Road through January 16.

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Click here for more information and to purchase tickets.

Lisa Petrillo