That’s the ticket
What: “What I Did for Love — A Tony Fields Tribute”
When: 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday
Where: Brunelle Performance Hall at Davis High School, 315 W. 14th St.
Tickets: $15 general, $10 students
Students from the performing arts program at Davis High School will honor the memory of a local kid who went on to a career in the entertainment industry — the late Tony Fields — with a pair of benefit performances at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
Performances will take place at the Brunelle Performance Hall at Davis High School, 315 W. 14th St. Tickets are $15 general and $10 for students, available at the door.
The show will include songs made famous by Prince, Paula Abdul, Michael Jackson, Van Halen and Whitney Houston. There also will be a “Solid Gold” medley featuring songs that were popular on that 1980s show. Fields was a dancer in the show’s cast for six seasons.
Also featured will be the dream ballet from the musical “Oklahoma!” (Fields danced the role of Dream Curley while a student at Davis High.)
Drama teacher Gwyn Bruch met Fields in the 1970s, when he was a teenager.
“He was a member of the Jazz Choir and the drama department; he was in many local productions,” Bruch recalls. He was “charismatic, hyper, loud, in-your-face honest, with a huge heart and boundless passion.”
Fields graduated from Davis High in 1977 and enrolled in the well-regarded Pacific Conservatory of the Performing Arts and the Roland Dupree Academy of Dance, but soon left those programs and started working professionally.
“He went to Hollywood, he slept in his VW Bug, he got a job as a backup dancer for Debbie Reynolds, and also danced with people in Christmas specials,” Bruch recalls.
Fields also got work with Jackson, and was seen in iconic Jackson videos like “Beat It” and “Thriller,” as well as Lionel Richie’s video “Running Through the Night.”
He also got a regular gig as a dancer on the show “Solid Gold,” and was a cast member there from 1979 through 1985.
Fields was one of the thousands of hopefuls who auditioned for a part in Richard Attenborough’s 1985 film version of the hit Broadway musical, “A Chorus Line.” And unlike the vast majority of those hopefuls, Fields was hired, appearing in the role of Alan DeLuca.
He appeared opposite Angela Lansbury as the villain-of-the-week in her popular series “Murder, She Wrote,” he won an award for his performance in an original play and he worked with troubled teenage boys in juvenile justice system in Los Angeles.
But Fields became ill, and gradually the illness became quite serious. He lost weight and found it difficult to sustain the physical demands of dancing.
He returned to Davis in 1994, looked up Bruch, and offered to work with students at his alma mater. Bruch recalls that “he knew he was dying, (and) this is what he chose to do with his energy.”
So she put him to work, and says “the students adored him … they gave back as much as he gave.” The student show that Fields put together “was a hit, of course.”
Fields died not long after, in 1995, at the age of 36, from HIV-related complications. A performance was organized in his memory, “What I Did for Love — A Tony Fields Tribute.” And what initially began as a one-time event turned into an annual showcase.
Fields’ memory also was honored in 2009 when he was posthumously inducted into the Davis High School Hall of Fame.
Much of this year’s program is being put together under the direction of Cara Rains, a local dancer and dance teacher who met Fields when she was a child.
“She has picked some newer music that Tony would have liked, as well as a number of songs that he knew,” Bruch says.
This year’s show was to have included a performance by Becky Stout, a 2003 Davis High grad who received the school’s Tony Fields Memorial Scholarship.
“She called just the other day and told us that she couldn’t make it because she’d been cast in the Los Angeles run of ‘Follies,’ replacing a girl from Broadway,” Bruch says, with some pride. “So she’s got her break.”
— Reach Jeff Hudson at [email protected] or (530) 747-8055.