Sammy & Me, Actor's Musical Tribute to the Legend Who Inspired Him, Gets NYC Showcase

News   Sammy & Me, Actor's Musical Tribute to the Legend Who Inspired Him, Gets NYC Showcase
 
Sammy Davis Jr. once sang "I've gotta be me," and a new solo musical work about the late entertainer's life has prompted a Broadway performer to ask a related identity question about what it means to be a black showman in the 21st century.
Eric Jordan Young in Sammy & Me.
Eric Jordan Young in Sammy & Me.

Sammy & Me, the new award-winning musical biography that interlaces the life of Davis with the aspirations of Broadway performer Eric Jordan Young, will be showcased for industry folk Oct. 23 in Manhattan.

Co-created by Young — who was seen on Broadway in Chicago, Ragtime, Seussical: The Musical, The Look of Love and Lincoln Center Theater's Dessa Rose — the one-man show played to sold out houses and solid reviews in developmental productions in Buffalo and Ithaca earlier in 2006.

Developed by Young and director Wendy Dann, Sammy & Me is billed as a multiple-character musical play "featuring 18 songs from the Rat Pack era, 32 characters, and a complex exploration of racial responsibility in America."

Young told Playbill.com there were industry people in Manhattan who expressed interest in seeing the developmental runs upstate, but couldn't make the trip in the time frame of the earlier limited engagements.

Young received Buffalo's Artvoice Theatre Award for Outstanding Visiting Artist of the Year, and the show received a nomination for Outstanding Musical of the Year. The play follows the story of Sammy Davis, Jr. from his vaudeville childhood to his headlining days on the Las Vegas strip that he helped to desegregate. The story also belongs to Young (hence, the & Me of the title) "as he unravels the complexities of being a black American caught between acknowledging racial identity and seeking to transcend race as a performer," according to the creators.

The dual biographical plots are explored through song, dance and monologue.

Young's credits also include the Stephen Sondheim tribute Opening Doors at Carnegie Hall, and Mr. Bojangles: The Ultimate Entertainer, produced by Davis' widow, Altovise Gore Davis.

Sammy & Me co-creator and director Wendy Dann is the associate artistic director at the Hangar Theatre in Ithaca, NY. Her directing career includes I Am My Own Wife, Cats, The Blue Room and Stones in His Pockets for the Hangar, and several plays at Syracuse Stage, Geva Theatre, Cider Mill Playhouse and the Kitchen Theatre Company.

The work premiered as a co-production between Buffalo's Musicalfare Theatre and Ithaca's Hangar Theatre.

Costumes are by Broadway designer Toni-Leslie James, whose work on Jelly's Last Jam earned a Tony Award nomination. Music direction is by Tommy James, a leading pianist, composer, and arranger for Savion Glover. Scenic and lighting design are by Chris Lee, who won the Artvoice Theatre Award for his lighting design on Sammy & Me and who will be made his Broadway debut with Martin Short: Fame Becomes Me. The creative team is rounded out by Joanna Lynne Staub as sound designer.

Sammy & Me will be presented at 2 PM and 6 PM Oct. 23 at the Alvin Ailey Studios, 405 West 55th Street. Seating is limited.

For reservations, industry people may contact Wendy Dann at (607) 351-0268 or wendy@hangartheatre.org or Eric Jordan Young at (646) 320-2009 or ejy@ericjordanyoung.com. Visit www.sammyandme.com.

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Sammy Davis Jr. (1925-1990) was the vivacious Harlem-born triple threat — singer, dancer, actor — seen in nightclubs, on Broadway in Mr. Wonderful and Golden Boy, in films ("Robin and the 7 Hoods," "Sweet Charity," "Ocean's Eleven," "Tap") and heard on recordings. Some of his memorable recordings include "The Candy Man," "Mr. Bojangles," "Gonna Build a Mountain," "I've Gotta Be Me," "Too Close for Comfort," "What Kind of Fool Am I?," among others.

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