"The book is tight, witty, and the voice of Budd Schulberg is
undeniable in it. The direction by Robert Armin is sure and
rhythmically right, using the spare space without scenery with
creative imagination." - Southampton Press
"Carl Anthony Tramon's climber in
the current production is a smalltime punk determined to make
good. His impassioned performance is well matched by Larry
Daggett's solid Al Manheim, the playwright done dirt by his
friend Sammy, and Moira Stone's assured Kit, the writer who
falls hard for Sammy but loves Al. Kristin McLaughlin as a
mogul's vampy daughter, Jeffrey Farber as a tragic studio exec,
and Darron Cardosa as a nebbishy writer whose work is
appropriated by Sammy are excellent, too... Based on this
greatly revised chamber production, the property would seem to
have a good deal to offer." - Backstage
"What makes this new version of
the show exciting is the performance of Carl Anthony Tramon as
the title character, Sammy Glick, Hollywood champion heel of all
time. His transformation from uncouth copy boy to monstrous
Hollywood mogul is an impressive acting feat...Musical
aficionados should flock to see this Sammy before he runs! " -
"This production of What Makes
Sammy Run?—billed as a world premiere of a new version of
the 1964 musical—clearly represents a labor of love for its
director, adaptor, and principal instigator, Robert Armin." -
"The scaling-down for this
church-theater production hurts the show surprisingly little,
thanks to clever dime-budget costumes by Joanne Haas and some
intelligent double-casting that makes it seem like there are
more than 10 actors in the company." - TheaterMania.com
"Armin's affection for the story
shines through at every juncture." - TalkinBroadway.com
"Carl Anthony Tramon is the best,
by far, of all the Sammy's I've seen, and I've seen them all." -
(January 24, 2006)
What Makes Sammy Run?
By Harry Forbes
folks about the 1964 Broadway musical What Makes Sammy Run?
and they speak of a guilty pleasure. It was not, by all
accounts, one of the milestones of musical theatre.
Nevertheless, based on this greatly revised chamber production,
the property would seem to have a good deal to offer.
original form, Budd Schulberg's adaptation (with his brother
Stuart) of his own scathing 1941 novel about New York copy boy
Sammy Glick, who ruthlessly climbs the Hollywood ladder, ran a
respectable 540 performances. Received wisdom says that only
when star Steve Lawrence got bored and started ad-libbing and
missing shows was the run curtailed.
critics were divided as to whether Sammy was too soft or too
unlikable. Though not monstrously evil, Carl Anthony Tramon's
climber in the current production is a smalltime punk determined
to make good. His impassioned performance is well matched by
Larry Daggett's solid Al Manheim, the playwright done dirt by
his friend Sammy, and Moira Stone's assured Kit, the writer who
falls hard for Sammy but loves Al.
McLaughlin as a mogul's vampy daughter, Jeffrey Farber as a
tragic studio exec, and Darron Cardosa as a nebbishy writer
whose work is appropriated by Sammy are excellent, too.
In 2006, we
get a cast of 10 and no production numbers. Director Robert
Armin has revised the script, dropping characters but adding two
others from the novel -- Rosalie Goldbaum and Billie Rand --
both played by a versatile Jessica Luck.
without a full-bodied orchestral sound, Ervin Drake's songs
(decent tunes with sharp lyrics true to the milieu) land
effectively under Richard Danley's musical direction. Drake has
written four new ones (nearly all leaving a positive
impression), revised lines for others, and restored a song cut
from the original production.
Haas' costumes and Jeffrey E. Salzberg's lighting compensate for
the lack of sets.
this strong -- if modestly scaled -- staging, Armin's hoped-for
fully realized mounting could be a winner.
(February 2, 2006)
Sammy’s Back, with a Harder Edge
by Lee David
There he sits.
Ruddy-face, smiling, vigorous, taking notes. Budd Schulberg, our
local, resident literary great, the last survivor of the Golden Age
of American Literature, the man who knew and talked with and argued
with Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald (with whom he worked,
too), Sinclair Lewis, Edna Ferber, Irwin Shaw, William Saroyan,
Last Sunday, yet another
version of the novel that launched his literary career and alienated
him from Hollywood, “What Makes Sammy Run,” finished a 10-day run on
the second floor of a church on the corner of 86th Street and West
End Avenue. It was an extended backers’ audition for a new
reworking of the 1964 musical version of “Sammy,” a 540-performance
hit that year that was nevertheless dissatisfying to both Budd
Schulberg and Ervin Drake, its composer/lyricist. “It lacked the
hard edge of the novel,” Mr. Drake told a reporter recently.
The new version is no
longer lacking a hard edge. It’s there, and then some. Director
(and publicist and press representative and, last Sunday, head
usher) Robert Armin has, with Budd Schulberg, done a rewrite of the
original libretto, tightening it, sharpening it, omitting characters
and adding new ones, and accommodating four new songs by Ervin
And there it was last
Sunday in its final performance of this run, exciting, hopeful, and
searching for the wherewithal for a full production. True, the
first act is too long, and the new version takes a little too much
time before it hits its stride, but once it gets there, it flies.
This is a parable not only for the 1930s, in which it’s set, but for
our time, a time that seems to have lost its heart and whose moral
compass is spinning as fast as a windmill in a windstorm.
Sure, Sammy is the
supreme anti-hero, the social and career climber with no redeeming
social or personal qualities. He’s Pal Joey for the 21st century,
as hard as rocks and as acquisitive as a Venus flytrap. Joey made
his mark in nightclubs, all well and good for the 1940s when John
O’Hara and Rodgers and Hart put him on the stage. Sammy does his
dirt in Hollywood, just the place that 21st century audiences spend
their money and their eyesight and their attention on.
And in the hands of Carl
Anthony Tramon, who portrays Sammy in this 10-day tryout, he’s a
constantly fascinating phenomenon -- a rat with charm, very much
like Gene Kelly’s original Joey and Robert Morse’s J. Pierpont Finch
in “How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.” Only more
surrounding him, the rest of the cast is dynamic and terrific.
Larry Daggett, a man with an astonishing voice, captures entire the
tortured soul of Al Manheim, the first man Sammy uses in his climb
to the top and the one who emerges taller than his tormentor. And
Moira Stone, as Kit Sargent, the Dorothy Parker style famous
scriptwriter who is at first attracted to, then repelled by Sammy,
is gloriously powerful, entrancingly beautiful and possessed of a
The songs by Ervin Drake
have a fine Broadway sheen to them and are delivered with wise and
sensitive interpretations, aided immensely by Jack Dyville’s musical
staging and minimal choreography. If there’s perhaps a little
over-plentitude of songs, this is part of the process of honing a
show into its final form. And there are some undeniable gems,
delivered brilliantly, particularly the new “Mother of All the
Blues” sung transfixingly by Larry Daggett, “You’re No Good,” a plot
advancing duet for Carl Anthony Tramon and Kristin McLaughlin as
Laurette Harrington, Sammy’s match in evil, “A Room Without
Windows,” the jukebox hit from the 1964 version, sung by Mr. Tramon
and Moira Stone, and most delightfully, the absolute show-stopper
and wonderfully satirical “Lights! Camera! Platitude!” sold to the
rafters by Carl Anthony Tramon, Moira Stone and Larry Daggett.
The book is tight,
witty, and the voice of Budd Schulberg is undeniable in it. The
direction by Robert Armin is sure and rhythmically right, using the
spare space without scenery with creative imagination, the lighting
design by Jeffrey E. Salzberg is a minor masterpiece of minimalism.
Joanne Haas’s costumes (except for a few lapses in fitting for Sammy
and Al Manheim) are period perfect, and Richard Danley’s musical
direction is on target.
All in all, then, it’s
the sort of delight that contains undeniable and refreshing
possibilities of a potential production. And if anyone deserves the
sort of ending these beginnings hope for, it’s the creators and cast
that lit up a church’s stage last Sunday.
Sitting in an audience
that included Jo Sullivan Loesser, Mrs. Byron Janis, and the ageless
Joe Franklin, as well as a houseful of delighted civilians like me,
I couldn’t help but sneak looks across the aisle at Budd and Ervin
Drake. The sum of their ages totals 176; the dapper and athletic
Ervin Drake is 85; Budd is 91 and headed for 92 in two months. Both
were wreathed in smiles; both applauded everything with joyous
vigor, both fairly leaped to the stage at the end of the performance
to join in the accolades.
“You know what?” Budd
confided to me after the show, “I like this better than the
That speaks volumes.
Now, if only the right ears hear it, and agree.