Home » London Theatre Reviews » Natalie Douglas ‘Sammy’ at The Pheasantry | Review

Natalie Douglas ‘Sammy’ at The Pheasantry | Review

There was a lot to Sammy Davis Jr. (1925-1990), whose popularity played its part in improving race relations in the United States. Natalie Douglas speaks with enthusiasm in a show simply called Sammy, and at length, describing in detail certain key moments in Davis’ life and career in between musical numbers – and without notes. One need not have read up about Davis at all before seeing Douglas’ show, for all is explained, and at the same time those who are very familiar with his life story will find enjoyment in hearing it all again, such is Douglas’ level of engagement with the audience.

Natalie Douglas
Natalie Douglas

It isn’t a sugar-coated account, which makes it credible – an emphasis on the ‘s’ in the word ‘wives’, for instance, is a subtle acknowledgement that Davis didn’t always marry for love. Interestingly, his first and third wives were white, and in the mid-Sixties, when he was in a Broadway production called Golden Boy, a musical based on the play of the same name, he played a character who had relations with a white woman, which attracted its fair share of controversy, social attitudes at the time being what they were.

In 1954, a fork somewhere along Route 66 was the scene of a nasty accident. A driver had taken the wrong turning at the fork and had decided to reverse her car in order to correct her mistake. In Douglas’ version of events, it was foggy, so Davis did not see what was going on in time and slammed into the other driver. In the centre of the steering wheel of his Cadillac was a metallic horn button which was dislodged on impact and struck his left eye, such that he could only ever see out of his right eye.

Mark Hartman was at the piano, gliding through an eclectic mix of songs, ranging from the joyous ‘Sing You Sinners’ to the dreamlike ‘Hey There’ from The Pajama Game to a gorgeous, if different, rendering of Jerry Jeff Walker’s ‘Mr Bojangles’. The last two numbers were polar opposites. ‘The Candy Man’, Davis’ only Billboard number one single, was a song he didn’t want to record initially – he just didn’t like it. This was followed by ‘Ol’ Man River’, from Showboat, about a black man who is weary from injustice as much as he is from overwork: as Douglas notes, it’s a problem that has yet to go away.

There were local references, too – Davis had come to Britain multiple times over the years, including an appearance at the 1960 Royal Variety Performance. He also featured in the 1968 West End production of Golden Boy, the first book musical to play at the London Palladium. Not every show at the Pheasantry bothers with an interval: the quality and quantity of material in this concert more than justified having two acts. Douglas’ vocal range is remarkable, her stage presence is magnetic, and her performance an utter delight.

5 Star Rating

Review by Chris Omaweng

The sensational Natalie Douglas returns to the Pheasantry with her smash hit tribute ‘SAMMY – the music of Sammy Davis, Jr.’. After SRO performances of this hit concert in NYC & at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center, Natalie Douglas is thrilled to share her stunning tribute to the phenomenally talented, Sammy Davis, Jr. Through the use of her gorgeous voice & lively showbiz tales, Natalie and her acclaimed music director, Mark Hartman, celebrate the songs & stories of this beloved & much missed mega-talent of Rat Pack fame, including iconic tunes such as ‘Too Close For Comfort’, ‘Gonna Build a Mountain’, ‘What Kind of Fool Am I?’ and ‘Mr. Bojangles’. As a young girl, Natalie joined the many Sammy Davis, Jr. fans around the world in their devotion to his multiple talents, charm, humor, dignity, and emotional impact.

24th to 26th February (8pm)
The Pheasantry, 152 Kings Road, London, SW3 4UT

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