Bay Street Theater is presenting; “Sammy & Me” as part of the 2023 Mainstage Season. It will run from August 14th through August 20th. Hamptons.com interviewed the show’s star, Eric Jordon Young, and its award-winning director and collaborator in creating the show, Wendy Dann. They met each other in college as teens and now find themselves involved in bringing the story of Sammy Davis, Jr.: singer, dancer, child star, and fixture of the Rat Pack to the stage as a play with music.
Getting together in Eric’s NYC apartment after successful careers, they collectively created improvised scenarios and came up with a process that now brings the show to Bay Street Theater. They had five productions of this show from 2006 to 2010. However, they believe they finally have the right show for the right time. Eric Jordon Young said, “He (Sammy Davis Jr.) has the title of being the ‘World’s Greatest Entertainer,’ and I think just because he had such a breadth of a career, spanning over five decades, I was always drawn to him because he was so visible when I was a child.”
Eric saw Sammy Davis Jr. perform on many shows with wide visibility for a “Black American performer” at the time, and Davis made a huge impression on Eric. Mr. Young explained, “I just always wanted to know more about who he was and why he was the chosen one.” Eric selected Wendy Dann to share his quest because “we have a great human connection that goes beyond just being artists together. We are truly friends. Wendy and I have known each other since we were in our teens…We are older people now who have lived full lives with different experiences, and to still be able to collaborate and learn from each other is a gift. I just trust Wendy. She understands the story I want to tell and how I want to tell it, how we both want to tell it.”
Wendy Dann has always known that Eric Jordon Young was special. She said, “We all knew when we were in college that there was something special about Eric…His shared love and joy for singing and dancing, but also (his ability) to find the core of any character, is amazing in this play…Instantly I knew when he told me about the idea (for “Sammy & Me”) I thought this is perfect because not only do you have a triple threat of (his) singing, dancing and acting but you also have someone who has a depth of soul.”
She believes that Sammy Davis Jr. was the only Black member of the Rat Pack and being so visible on TV impacted Eric, who had grown up as the only Black kid on a white street in a white school. She knew Eric could really tell the story “Of what it is like to be Black in a white world, and Sammy Davis Jr. really represented that in the seventies and eighties.”
They explained how they investigated what doors Sammy Davis Jr. opened, what choices he made that were helpful, and what choices he made that were not so helpful. Eric said, “The connection to the truth, the true intentions of this celebrity and performer, and aligning that with myself, I think we have been successful at dissecting who I am emotionally, who I am physically, and how that relates to Sammy Davis Jr.”
On the same subject of what this play really “gets right,” Wendy Dann said, “This is a major revision. A lot has happened in the last decade in the United States… we are answering a challenging question: what does it mean to remember someone like Sammy Davis Jr.? Do you celebrate the memory of someone like Sammy? Do you hold him accountable for his flaws or his mistakes? What kind of impact has he had on Black entertainers in the U.S. today? I think that’s what we got really right.”
There should be no doubt that “Sammy & Me” is more than a play with music. It will entertain you while enlightening you on the shifting sands of social conscience in our nation and our world. These two artists, Wendy Dann and Eric Jordan Young present a piercing soulful exploratory dissection of what a talented Sammy Davis Jr. endured to pursue his love to entertain successfully. The very weight of his work and his actual life will be presented to the audience with the mechanics of a play but with the gift of Sammy Davis Jr.’s music. All are on the magical Bay Street Theater Stage starting on August 14th and running through August 20th.
To purchase tickets, visit the Box Office, open daily from 11 AM until 30 minutes prior to the show; for tickets, call (631) 725-9500 or visit baystreet.org online 24/7.