92Y Celebrates the Legendary Sammy Davis, Jr. Featuring Harriett D. Foy, Betsy Wolfe, and More
Known as "Mr. Entertainment," Sammy Davis, Jr., had the kind of career that was indisputably legendary, vast in scope and scale: song-and-dance man, Rat Pack member alongside Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin, Tony-nominated actor.... And yet, his life was complex, complicated and contradictory, as he strove to achieve the American Dream in a time of racial prejudice and shifting political territory. Lyrics and Lyricists explores the music that expressed the soul of this inimitable artist with Yes I Can: The Sammy Davis Jr. Songbook, featuring a diverse cast of acting/singing/ dancing/choreography talents including Harriett D. Foy (Amazing Grace), Jared Grimes (After Midnight ), Max Kumangai (Waitress), Matthew Saldivar (Bernhardt/Hamlet) and Betsy Wolfe (Falsettos). Under the artistic direction of Laurence Maslon, Yes I Can journeys through Davis' remarkable career, looking backward and forward from 1964's Golden Boy - the Broadway musical that earned Davis a Tony nomination for Best Actor - and following Davis' struggle for identity and expression in 20th century America with the songs that illuminated the complex stages of his life: "The Birth of the Blues," "What Kind of Fool Am I?," "Mr. Bojangles," and the one that defined him best, "I've Gotta Be Me."
Yes I Can complements the award-winning American Masters documentary Sammy Davis, Jr.: I've Gotta Be Me, the first major film documentary to examine Davis' vast talent. Written and co-produced by L&L's Laurence Maslon, the film premieres on PBS February 19.
"This show is not so much a biographical treatment, but a celebration of Davis' trajectory as an artist," comments Laurence Maslon. "Sammy was both canny and bold in his song choices; the songs that he held close and made him famous were manifestations of his journey, from a young song-and-dance man in the 1940s eager to break out of racial stereotypes to the 1950s when he became the first black singer on the pop charts to sing Broadway tunes. In the 1960s, he conquered Las Vegas with the Rat Pack, but then made the huge decision to abandon that lucrative career for Broadway with the groundbreaking racially charged Golden Boy. The playlist of his career-which highlighted magnificent songs by the Gershwins, Strouse and Adams, Newley and Bricusse-demonstrates the artistry of a superstar who wielded the American songbook to change the world and his place in it."
Producer Ted Chapin comments on the projections from the original production of Golden Boy: "I reached out to Richard Pilbrow, who was originally credited for the projections, but he explained that his task was to figure out how to project Tony Walton's brilliant drawings on the back wall of the set. Tony sent me his original designs and offered to have us use them. Thanks to Tony and Richard, our audiences will be seeing some of the actual projections that were used on Broadway 55(!) years ago."
Photo Credit: Walter McBride / WM Photos