Danny John-Jules recreates the genius of Sammy Davis Jnr in his new show I’ve Gotta Be Me which previews in Bognor Regis before it heads out on tour.
The show will be at the Regis Centre on Thursday, September 12 and Friday, September 13 at 7.30pm, produced by Steve Keys of Worthing-based production company That’s Showbiz Ltd.
The star of Red Dwarf, Death in Paradise and Strictly Come Dancing is offering his own tribute to “the coolest cat in town”, singing and dancing his way back to his musical theatre roots as he takes you on a journey through the life of showbiz icon, Mr Wonderful himself, Sammy Davis Jr.
As Sammy said: “I have to be a star like another man has to breathe.” The only problem for Sammy was that he had to break down walls to rise to the top of the entertainment world. Sometimes his lyrics said it best: “Whether I’m right or whether I’m wrong, whether I find a place in this world or never belong, I gotta be me, I’ve gotta be me.”
As Danny says: “Sammy was the quintessential performer that would have graced these seaside towns. I have been to Scarborough. Places like Scarborough and Bognor are the places where you would have had the variety performers, what the Americans call the vaudevillians.
“I follow the best, and Sammy was the best. What made him the best was that he lived and breathed and ate showbusiness. He dedicated his entire life to performing. His whole thing in life was that he wanted to love and to be loved, and that’s what he got on the stage.”
Off-stage, it certainly wasn’t quite so straightforward.
“He had a troubled life. It was a troubled era. How do you become the greatest entertainer of all time during a time of segregation? 90 per cent of the places available to artists were closed to him. How do you become the greatest? You have to break through the walls, and you don’t do it through your physical form; you do it through talent.
“And a lot of people that would usually get a ride wouldn’t get hired when Sammy came to town. He changed things. No one changed things more than Sammy Davis Jnr did. But you have got to remember that for every door that Sammy broke down, there was someone in showbusiness who handed him the keys, and if you look at the people that helped him, the first mainstream one was Mickey Rooney. If you look at them, you could say they were identical in terms of their acting and singing and dancing and playing instruments. They had the same talents. Sammy Davis Jnr quotes Mickey Rooney as being the performer he most respected. People think he would say Frank Sinatra, but actually it was Mickey Rooney who put his neck on the line for him.”
But life was far from easy: “Sammy Davis Jnr’s father would say ‘Don’t worry about it, son. They are jealous of show people.’”
Danny is in no doubt: “Sammy was the greatest entertainer ever. The fact is why should Sammy Davis Jnr ever get forgotten when everyone who ever walked onto the stage just wanted to be as good as Sammy. He was the greatest showman. If you are talking about Sammy Davis Jnr, then you are talking about showbusiness itself. You think of the average Joe that has got his luggage in life, but when Sammy Davis Jnr walked off the stage, he left the stage on fire. He was that good!”