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Sammy & Me

a Cabaret
by Wendy Dann and Eric Jordan Young

COMPANY : Alliance Theatre Company [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Hertz Stage [WEBSITE]
ID# 3862

SHOWING : October 01, 2010 - October 24, 2010



There’s more behind his smile than just talent and a dream.

Sammy Davis, Jr: singer, dancer, child star, fixture of the Rat Pack… but at what cost? Virtuosic Broadway performer Eric Jordan Young investigates his own obsession with Sammy – and his questions take audiences on a whirlwind journey through Sammy’s life and his music. But when you ask, ‘who was the man behind the perfect cool smile?’ the answers that unravel are as powerful as the new questions they raise.

Part self portrait, part celebrity investigation, this insightful new show features 15 songs Sammy made famous, including “Where or When,” “Smile,” “Mr. Bojangles,” and “Candy Man.” With Sammy & Me, the Alliance welcomes the return of Eric Jordan Young, last seen as the show-stopping King Herod in the hit Alliance musical Jesus Christ Superstar GOSPEL.

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by playgoer
Sunday, October 24, 2010
"Sammy & Me" makes its audience work too hard. Eric Jordan Young is a gifted singer, dancer, and actor, but his one-man show moves so quickly from one character to another that the audience has to concentrate on thinking "oh, that hand position means he's being his mom" and "which one is that now, Uncle Massie or Sammy Davis Senior?" The numerous characters show off his range as an actor, but they don't flow in a way that creates an engaging, well-rounded portrait either of "me" or of Sammy.

The conceit of the show is that "me" is preparing for opening night of his show at the Alliance Theatre. Pretty self-referential, right? He has read a bad pre-review in the newspaper and is questioning the wisdom of a tribute to the "Uncle Tom" entertainer Sammy Davis. Jr. He has spent his life as being the one black male in a suburban white world and identifies with Sammy, who also lived much of his life in a white world. It's a pretty tenuous connection and less and less interesting as the performance wears on. I actually found Kathy Janich's one-page summary of Sammy Davis, Jr.'s life in the program to be more informative and entertaining.

The accompaniment is provided by incredible pianist Tommy Jones, supported by bass and drums. The set, designed by Brian Sidney Bembridge, is a typical case of Alliance overkill, with glossy flooring, sliding panels, and moving platforms. Lighting design, by Marcus Doshi, has a few interesting effects, most notably small spots on two white-gloved hands. It's a professional production, but not much of a story.

Interspersed with the book scenes are songs, most associated with Sammy Davis, Jr., but re-imagined as dialogues or commentaries. That's probably just as well, since Mr. Young isn't a terribly gifted impersonator and masks the natural power of his voice when "channeling" Sammy. The show ends its emotional arc with "I've Gotta Be Me," then tacks on a well-performed "Mr. Bojangles" that is absolutely meaningless in light of what has gone on before, followed by a short cabaret medley as an encore. I heard a sigh of disgust from someone near me in the audience when the standing audience had to sit to submit to the encore.

Eric Jordan Young is talented, but "Sammy & Me" comes across mainly as a way for this actor/singer/dancer to say "Hey, look at me! I'm talented!" During the show, I found myself thinking that I would much prefer seeing him in a musical like "Golden Boy," something with a plot that would let him embody ONE character for an evening's entertainment. "Sammy & Me" dilutes his talents by attempting to go in too many directions at once. Let the audience enjoy a story. Don't make it work so hard to follow a pair of stories, neither of which is sufficiently fleshed out. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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