RiseMagazine | Sarasota

The Premier Lifestyle Magazine of Florida's Black Communities

‘Sammy Tonight!’ Will Take You There!!!

Sammy Tonight!” is an experience for everyone involved!

by Michael Paragon

As I sat in the audience I realized that I had taken a step back through the doorways of time! I was transported back to a time when the performer was everything. They sang, they danced, they connected with their audiences through jokes and one-on-one interactions, they gave you an experience!

That was the night that I had the pleasure of re-living for the first time with the Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe’s production of “Sammy Tonight!” starring De’zhon Fields. I may be “preaching to the choir” to the fans of the legendary Sammy Davis, Jr. but Mr. Fields channeled his presence so accurately it was chilling! It was most evident as I watched the reactions of others in attendance, mouthing the words to every song and literally looking at Sammy Davis, Jr. throughout the show! I believe in giving credit where it’s due and this production was simply phenomenal!

De’zhon Fields was supported by two members of the Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe cast, Ms. Tsadok Porter and Ms. Eboni Lavender. Lending both their beauty and talent, the show was a balance of Sammy’s favorites: Old Black Magic, Mr. Bojangles, Candyman and I’ve Got the World On a String, as well as hits from “Ol’ Blue-Eyes” (Frank Sinatra) and Louis Armstrong (if you can’t envision De’zhon Fields doing Sammy doing Louie, it’s ok…trust that he NAILED IT!)

Sammy Davis, Jr.

Painting by Vladimir Gorsky

Sammy Davis, Jr. was a consummate professional. Having made his debut at the tender age of just four back in the 1920’s, he spent the following 60 years singing, dancing and acting his way into the hearts of his global fans until his untimely death in 1990 at the age of 64.

Sammy Davis, Jr. made his film debut in a 1932 short film titled Rufus Jones For President which allowed him to showcase his tap dancing skills, taught by the equally famous Bill ‘ Bojangles’ Robinson. He was a member of the Will Mastin Trio following his military service in the United States Army and during these engagements found himself touring with Mickey Rooney. It was during these events in the late 1940’s that the lifelong friendship with bill-topper Frank Sinatra was born. 1956 saw Sammy Davis, Jr. making his Broadway debut in Mr. Wonderful with a return in ’64 to the big stage as boxer Joe Wellington in the musical adaptation of Golden Boy, a 1937 drama by Clifford Odet.

Hollywood movies opened new doors for this talented performer and in his first notable role in Sportin’ Life, he gave new life to this 1959 version of Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess. Sammy also garnered further success in movies such as 1968’s Salt and Pepper, One More Time (1970) and appearances in the Cannonball Run films. As his dance and stage performances had formed the foundation of his career, it seems fitting that one of his last performances would allow him to show off his stuff once again, partnering with Gregory Hines in the evocative Tap. His farewell film performance was The Kid Who Loved Christmas. The world tour of 1988/1989 was his final performance with Rat Pack members Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra and will be long remembered (though Liza Minnelli was recruited to replace Dean Martin due to health issues forcing him to dropout).

Though cancer ended his life on May 16, 1990, Sammy Davis, Jr. lives on through his film performances and his books: Yes I Can (1965), Life In A Suitcase (1980) and Why Me? (1989). In 2001 he was awarded a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award for Male Pop Vocalist posthumously. He was the recipient of the Kennedy Center Honors (1987) and the Special Citation Award from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences (1974). The NAACP awarded him the Springarn Medal (1968) and an Image Award (1968)

“Long before there was a civil rights movement, I was marching through the lobby of the Waldorf Astoria, of the Sands, the Fountainbleau, to a table at the Copa. I’d march alone.” – Sammy Davis, Jr. (1989)

De’zhon Fields

De’zhon Fields is an accomplished singer and dancer in his own right. He’s been singing and dancing since he was 10 years old back in his hometown of Vancouver, Washington. This was the backdrop from which he began researching into the man that many claimed he resembled, Sammy Davis, Jr. He soon realized that he identified with him in many ways and began doing shows in Vancouver. This has led to his performances around the world.

One of his earlier roles was the principal dancer in Long Beach California’s Tony Award-winning play, “Cinderella Brown”. Living in Los Angeles gave him the opportunity to train under National Ballroom/ Salsa Champion Sonya Cortez and to invest in years of teaching others ballroom and salsa dancing. Helping children change their lives became a passion and De’zhon visited various youth homes throughout the Greater Los Angeles area encouraging troubled youth to pursue their dreams. It was after reading Sammy’s book, Why Me? that he also identified with Sammy’s passion for entertainment, love of humanity and his outlook on life.

De’zhon’s first appearance as Sammy was in 2002 in Vancouver, Washington and has led to his feature performances at such prestigious venues as Caesar’s Palace and Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, The Lodge at Pebble Beach, the Disneyland Theatre and Hollywood Palladium in California. Abroad, he’s wowed audiences in the Casino Windsor in Canada as well as the Cork Opera House in Ireland. He’s also appeared as Sammy in all of the major “Rat Pack” shows. De’zhon most recently co-wrote a show called “The Ultimate Concert” which was a tribute to the final 1988 concert performance of the legendary star with Liza Minnelli and Frank Sinatra.

For more information about De’zhon Fields click here.

For more information or to purchase tickets, call the box office at 941-366-1505 or visit the website www.wbttsrq.org.


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