We're catching up with Karl Dyall and Rennie Mirro a couple hours before the re-opening of From Sammy with Love at Lorensbergsteatern in Göteborg. They've just finished a final rehearsal but seem relaxed and ready, it's been a year since they last performed the applauded and critically hailed show, which ran for two years straight at the Stockholm City Theatre. The show goes on the road in Sweden after two weeks in Göteborg, and after a short intermission it will show one night at the Apollo Theater in New York.

From Stockholm City Theatre to Apollo Theatre, NY: From Sammy with Love
One night only! Thursday, November 10 at 8 p.m.
Tickets, $45-$70: www.ticketmaster.com / 800.745.3000
Cast: Karl Dyall, Rennie Mirro
Executive producer: Vicky von der Lacken
Music: director, guitar: Joel Sahlin / Piano: Pål Svenre / Drums: Sebastian Ågren / Bass: Svante Söderqvist / Script, director: Jonna Nordenskiöld / Choreographer: David Dalmo / Scenography, Costume designer: Sven Haraldsson


"It still feels unreal,"

Dyall and Mirro say in unison, and Mirro adds, "I almost don’t dare think about performing our show at the Apollo … one of the most renowned venues in the United States, in the world even, and on a stage that meant so much for Sammy Davis, Jr. himself."

Beating the odds
Dyall and Mirro are among Sweden's most established performers in the musical genre. Both have won Sweden's equivalent to the Tony Awards but had very different backgrounds prior to landing in musical theatre — Dyall as a street dancer, Mirro in classical ballet at the Royal Opera. They met during the successful 2 1/2 –year run of Singin’ in the Rain at the legendary Oscars Theatre in Stockholm. The idea for From Sammy with Love was born there and has become as much a story about Sammy Davis, Jr. himself as about Karl Dyall and Rennie Mirro, who both grew up in interracial families in the 1960s and '70s in Sweden.
"Many people think the show is about black and white,” Dyall says. "It isn’t. It’s really about not being an outsider, about fitting in and struggling hard and — in Sammy’s case — to reach the top against all odds.”
Through scriptwriter Jonna Nordenskiöld’s creativity, their performance is equal parts song and dance show, and tale of Dyall and Mirro through Sammy's road to becoming "the greatest living entertainer in the world, Mr. Entertainment.”
"We’re often asked how much this is about us and how much about Sammy, and it’s really a mix of us all, including the Swedish-American aspects of this story: Sammy’s Swedish wife, May Britt Wilkens.”
Sammy Davis, Jr., who was a victim of racism for most of his life, married the Swedish film star May Britt Wilkens in 1960, pre-Civil Rights Act and a time when interracial marriages were forbidden by law in 31 U.S. states. One of Davis’s signature comments was made on a golf course during a game with comedian Jack Benny who asked him about his handicap. Davis, who lost an eye in a traffic accident and converted to Judaism replied, "Talk about handicap. I’m a one-eyed Negro Jew."

Finding balance
Both men are parents and talk about the difficulties of being a performing artist and raising children, being present in a family while processing a new act or completely immersing oneself into an act or going on tour.
"We were both going through a difficult time when we were performing Singin’ in the Rain, each in his own way,” Rennie explains. "The musical was an immense success and the contrast with our personal lives at the time became almost absurd. We shared a dressing room and spent our time there complaining a lot, but once the curtain came up, you had to put on the tux, forget everything and it was … show time! I had just read Sammmy Davis, Jr.’s biography and felt it was interesting to follow someone who had experienced the imbalance between stage and life much, much worse than we could ever imagine. I gave the book to Karl after the premiere and we started talking about creating this show.”
"We’ve tried not to make it black and white,” adds Dyall. "It’s about affinity and the struggle to belong. I think everyone will be able to recognize a little bit about him or herself in our show. It’s about finding a balance in life and an identity that works for you. That’s a struggle everyone goes through from time to time, overcoming obstacles and finding your own tune in life.”
Dyall’s three children are nearly grown while Mirro has a 12-year-old and looks forward to once again becoming a father this fall. Both have relatives in the U.S., spend time in New York every year and expect family and siblings from Sweden and relatives to attend the performance at the Apollo.
It was an important venue in Sammy's life, too. "It's mere blocks from where Sammy Davis, Jr. grew up with his grandmother," and his mother was a chorus girl there. He performed there himself, with his father and uncle and the Will Mastin Trio.
From Sammy with Love will be performed once and once only in English at the Apollo on November 10. The exclusive guest performance by the two beloved Swedish performers is a work of love for them and was made possible through the work of producer, promoter and theater owner Vicky von der Lancken and her team. Both Swedish performers agree: "It's the performance of a lifetime and a dream come true but almost impossible to get our thoughts around at this point in time.”
It's a performance you won’t want to miss.
Ulf Barslund Martensson

For more info on the production and performance, see From Sammy With Love at the Apollo