In the know
What: “What I Did for Love — A Tribute to Tony Fields”
When: 7 p.m. Friday, April 25, and Saturday, April 26
Where: Brunelle Performance Hall at DHS, 315 W. 14th St.Tickets: $10 general, $8 for seniors over the age of 60 and $5 for students. Tickets will be available at the door.
The annual “What I Did for Love — A Tribute to Tony Fields” commemorates the passion and drive of the inexhaustible Tony Fields, a successful dancer and performer who, after making it in Hollywood, returned to Davis to direct several Davis High plays before dying of AIDS in 1995.
A ’70s themed show, performances range from Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” to Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive” to Earth, Wind and Fire’s “September.” The DHS drama department produces the musical, which will be held at 7 p.m. Friday, April 25, and Saturday, April 26, in the Brunelle Performance Hall at DHS.
Fields, a DHS alumnus, had a fruitful career as a professional dancer, appearing in Jackson’s “Beat It” and “Thriller” music video, playing Al DeLuca in the movie “A Chorus Line” and dancing on the popular music television series “Solid Gold.”
Gwyn Bruch first met Fields through a community theater production of “Gypsy.” Then a Jazz Choir and drama student, Fields “skated through classes as the resident entertainer,” according to Bruch. The pair worked together in a production of “Bye Bye Birdie,” and in their later years “A Thousand Clowns.”
After a thriving career in the Los Angeles area, Fields returned to Davis due to illness in 1994. He began coaching DHS students in the local drama department. Intense and passionate, he demanded nothing but the best and pushed his students to the height of their talent with his bold teaching manner.
“I was drawn to his unbridled energy,” Bruch said.
This year’s interpretation of his tribute will differ vastly from former years with the incorporation of symphonic instruments and a focus on the ’70s. (Prior years have been on the ’80s).
“This year feels like a renewal of energy and commitment to our tribute — students are giving selflessly and passionately — led by our musical directors senior Mandy Chen and junior Utsav Bhargava,” Bruch said. “(It’s) our repayment to Tony for our friendship and the gifts he gave to DSHS drama.”
Bhargava acts not only as co-music director but also as conductor of the band. He notes enjoying the variety of talent offered at DHS. Although most performances put on by the drama department feature some form of singing with background instrumentals, this particular event highlights everything from a boys’ dance number to an acting number to a few vocal performances.
“Singing, dancing, acting and playing instruments will all be showcased in this year’s show,” Bhargava said. “I hope to gain experience working with a fabulous cast and band to create wonderful entertainment.”
Bhargava looks to commemorate Fields through the tribute, as he feels a connection the individual on a personal level.
“I relate to this performance because I want to honor Tony’s memory by doing what he loved to do,” Bhargava said. “You’ll get much more than your money’s worth by attending.”
The theater family at Davis High bonds together for this special and more intimate performance. Dancer and chorus singer junior Lois Kang describes falling in love with the show and attributes many of her favorite memories to the production of the tribute.
“All the songs and dance numbers are fantastic. … I fell in love with this show last year. I started theater in ninth grade and I can’t say I regret being a part of the theater family,” Kang said. “As a part of ‘A Chorus Line’ actors, being a part of the big picture is fun!”
Fields has earned the respect of Kang through his dedication and determination, which in turn led him to find success in the arts industry.
“Tony Fields was actually a student here at DHS,” Kang said. “He’s famous and he made it in the arts. Being able to celebrate Tony’s successes and to honor him is just amazing. Because the arts are very competitive, and there’s very little room for a lot of people.
“Even if I don’t go on to do this in my adult life, the memories will stay and I will continue to support the arts. The theme of Tony is forever. It’s always remembered. … I learn from Tony his flexible and easy-going nature.”
Deeply enthusiastic, she strongly encourages everyone to come, promising a fun night in which the audience can even get involved in some of the musical numbers.
“I love it all! The dancing and singing … it’s like a musical,” she added.
A Tribute to Tony Fields includes songs from hit productions such as “Mamma Mia” and “Carwash.” Incorporated are a break dance number, a few lead vocalist solos with backup dancers and an ensemble band.
Co-music director senior Mandy Chen looks forward to the makeover of the annual tribute and hopes the audience will be just as impressed as she is with the results.
“This year’s production is a near total revamp. We’re doing ’70s pop songs — the kind of music Tony might have listened to when he was in high school. We’ve also added a live band,” Chen said. “The cast, crew, band members and production staff have been working so hard to make this a fresh and fun show. It’s a team effort. The rehearsal process has been all about collaboration. This show is a tribute to Tony Fields, a celebration of his hard work, commitment for excellence and passion for the performing arts.”
The night will end with Bruch’s solo rendition of “What I Did for Love,” from “A Chorus Line.” Bruch recalls struggling to keep from crying during her performance of the song her first year.
“I feel the piece wraps up the show perfectly. A Tribute to Tony Fields is about honoring an amazing, talented man who was passionate about what he did. He worked hard to get where he got as a performer. In being part of this production, I think we get to experience a little of what that passion means for ourselves,” Chen said.
Part of the proceeds for the show will go to a Tony Fields scholarship to a notable DHS student. The awardee will be announced after the performance. Tickets are $10 general, $8 for seniors over the age of 60 and $5 for students. Tickets will be available at the door.