He's Gotta Be Him: Babatundé Is Sammy in New Musical Opening Oct. 2 in CA

By Kenneth Jones
02 Oct 2009

Sammy stars Obba Babatundé and Heather Ayers
Sammy stars Obba Babatundé and Heather Ayers
Photo by Craig Schwartz

The world-premiere biographical musical, Sammy, about late showman Sammy Davis, Jr., opens Oct. 2 after previews from Sept. 19 at The Old Globe Theatre in San Diego. The cast is headed by Broadway veteran and Tony Award nominee Obba Babatundé as Davis.

Famed songwriter Leslie Bricusse ("Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory," Stop the World — I Want to Get Off, "Scrooge") penned book, music and lyrics for the musical about his showbiz pal, the groundbreaking African-American triple-threat who sang, dance and acted in film, TV and on Broadway.

Directed by Keith Glover with choreography by Keith Young and music supervision by Ian Fraser, Sammy will run to Nov. 8 (which represents an extension).

The score includes numbers that Davis was associated with in his career, but also boasts more than a dozen new songs that Bricusse wrote specifically for this project. Additional songs are by Bricusse and Anthony Newley; Davis recorded a number of Bricusse-Newley songs in his day. Davis, a native of Harlem who died in Beverly Hills, CA, lived 1925-1990.

According to The Old Globe, "Sammy traces the highs and lows of the ultimate triple-threat singer, actor and dancer. Davis became one of the greatest performers of his generation, paving new ground while struggling with issues of identity, race and a turbulent personal life."



Like his mentor Sammy Davis, Jr., Babatundé has been entertaining audiences since he was a child, according to The Old Globe. Davis once said of Babatundé: "I feel safe knowing that with cats like Obba, when I get out of this business I am leaving it in good hands."

Babatundé was nominated for a Tony Award for his performance as C.C. White in the original Broadway cast of Dreamgirls. His additional Broadway credits include the revival of Chicago, Grind and Timbuktu! He also created the role of Jelly Roll Morton in Jelly's Last Jam. On television, Babatundé delivered an Emmy-nominated performance in "Miss Ever's Boys," received an NAACP Image Award nomination for his performance as Harold Nicholas in "Introducing Dorothy Dandridge" and has appeared in 60 made-for-television movies.

Babatundé is joined by Heather Ayers (May Britt/Ensemble), Ann Duquesnay (Rosa Davis), Mary Ann Hermansen (Kim Novak/Ensemble), Adam James (Frank Sinatra), Troy Britton Johnson (Dean Martin/Cohn/Jennings/Ensemble), Ted Louis Levy (Sammy Davis, Sr.), Keewa Nurullah (Lola Folana/Ensemble), Perry Ojeda (Eddie Cantor/Ensemble), Victoria Platt (Altovise Gore/Ensemble), Lance Roberts (Will Mastin), Alonzo Saunders (Murphy/Ensemble) with Jenelle Engleson, Stephanie Girard, Lauren Haughton, Anise Ritchie and Sarrah Strimel (Ensemble).

The creative team also includes Alexander Dodge (scenic design), Fabio Toblini (costume design), Chris Lee (lighting design), John H. Shivers (sound design), David Patridge (sound design), Ned Ginsburg (orchestrator), Rahn Coleman (music director/conductor), Dominique Kelley (assistant choreographer) and David Sugarman (stage manager).

The Sammy songlist follows:

ACT I

"Once In A Lifetime"
"Another Hot Day In Harlem"
"The Biscuit's Better With The Butter"
"Vaudeville"
"Burlesque"
"Gonna Build A Mountain"
"Getting My Act Together"
"The House O' the Lord"
"Rosa's Prayer"
"Who Can I Turn To?"
"Charley Charm"
"Black Sammy, White Sammy"
"Something In Your Smile"
"The Joker"

ACT II

"Livin' Large"
"Singin' An' Swingin'"
"The Only Man For Me"
"Slow Down, Sammy"
"The Candy Man"
"What Kind Of Fool Am I?"
"Salt & Pepper"
"The Greatest"
"The Good Things In Life"

For single tickets visit www.TheOldGlobe.org or call (619) 23-GLOBE.