There’s a tendency to forget who you’re watching at pivotal moments in “Sammy & Me,” the production playing through Sunday at the Alliance Theatre’s Hertz Stage.
Which is even more astonishing given that Eric Jordan Young is starring in a one man show.
Young inventively plays 34 characters in 90 minutes, everyone from a back stage seamstress to Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Jerry Lewis and even Richard Nixon.
The phenom who memorably played Herod in the Alliance production of “Jesus Christ Superstar Gospel” is back with a deeply personal, fascinating show he co-wrote with director Wendy Dann.
“Sammy & Me” tackles the complicated show business legacy of Sammy Davis Jr. as it illuminates how “The Candy Man’s” career not only gave birth to the blues but to a generation of careers, including Young’s.
The actor first glimpsed the song and dance man as a kid watching “The Flip Wilson Show” in 1976. His career path was set, much to the horror of Young’s relatives, who considered Davis an “Uncle Tom.”
“In order to do this show, you have to embrace the entire legacy,” Young told us after the show. “This is a man who opened the doors for my generation of theatre people. But this is also a show about what you do when you discover your heroes are flawed.”
Indeed, for every Las Vegas casino Davis and his Rat Pack pals Sinatra and Martin helped to integrate, there are wince-worthy moments as well. That flicker of film from a Rat Pack concert, for example, when Davis leaps into Martin’s arms as the Italian singer proclaims: “I’d like to thank the NAACP for this award. . .”
In the show, Young also tackles Davis’ reluctance to march with Martin Luther King, Jr.
“But he did it,” Young said. “Sammy marched. He embraced the movement and he had a huge love for Dr. King. He made sure he was up there at the podium.”
With 17 of Davis’ best known songs contained within “Sammy & Me,”, Young also rekindles the singer’s songbook legacy. A legacy that has been largely forgotten in the 20 years since the singer’s death.
“I feel a responsibility to help get this material back out there,” Young explained. “Yes, Sammy was man of his time. But he was also a pioneer and somebody has to stand up for him. When I can get the audience to just fly with me on any given night in this show, I know Sammy is up there, working right along side me.”