The 66-minute documentary, With No Regrets: A Dancin’ Man’s Journey made its debut at the Dances with Films festival on June 1, 2013. Husband and wife duo George Fairfield and Crystal Chapman produced, directed and wrote this love letter to dancer, choreography, director, and teacher Tony Stevens.
The film was meant to be a living tribute to Tony Stevens and his impact on dance, stage and screen. Unfortunately, Tony died on July 12, 2011 of Hodgkin’s lymphoma. He was only 63. The film seeks to inspire and enlighten the public on his over 45-plus years of work, his influence on choreography, rhythm and movement, and how he transformed not only the world of dance, but the world at-large.
Throughout his career, Tony danced, choreographed, and worked alongside such luminaries as Chita Rivera, Bob Fosse, Liza Minnelli, Michael Bennett, Mary Tyler Moore and Dolly Parton. He is the credited choreographer in the films The Great Gatsby (1974), The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas (1982), and television specials like Broadway Plays Washington, Disneyland’s 30th Anniversary, and the Mary Tyler Moore variety show, Mary. Yet, many outside of the dance world–and some within–do not know who he was. Unlike the names mentioned, he failed to become a household one; although many feel he should have been.
Writer Crystal Chapman was Tony’s friend and protégé. In a tribute to the artist, she wrote, “He was a humble man who cared more about the journey than the outcome. I think that’s the lesson he would want us all to remember. That, and to take that journey with joy, passion, and humility.”
The movie is structured around a 20-hour interview of Tony Stevens talking about his storied career in a cradle-to-grave fashion, interspersed with interviews from long-time friends, fellow dancers, and other professionals who knew and worked with Tony over the years. In discussing what drew him to the project, director George Fairfield said, “It was Tony Stevens, himself, and hopefully some of that came through on the film.”
The director succeeded in his effort. Tony Stevens comes across as infectious, ebullient, and strikingly creative and daring. He also exudes an incredibly giving spirit, not only to the dance world, and the productions of which he was a part, but the choreographers, principals, and dancers with whom he worked. The interviews include Kelly Bishop, best known for her Tony-award winning role as “Sheila” in Broadway’s A Chorus Line, and as the matriarch Emily Gilmore on the TV-series Gilmore Girls. Legend Chita Rivera, a lifelong friend and collaborator, is also interviewed. Chita originated the role of Velma Kelly in Bob Fosse’s Chicago, and Tony was an instrumental influence in Chita’s interpretation of “All That Jazz”. Jeff Calhoun, choreographer and director of Newsies (the musical), High School Musical, (both stage and screen) and High School Musical 2, among many others, help flesh out Tony’s personal soliloquy. These friends and contemporaries recall how remarkable Tony was in his gifts, but also how giving he was of his time, talent, and energies, even when it meant someone else received the spotlight and the credit rather than him. Most notable was the magnetic and joyous effect he had on those in his orbit. Launching off a story or comment from Tony, each interviewee gave their perspective or take on that story, and on Tony himself in that moment. This created a different narrative flow and direction, and also embodies the lighthearted, almost Pied-Piper nature of Tony Steven’s personality and art.
This film was created with a low budget, and it showed. Yet this did not detract from the depth, presence, and story development that went into presenting this man’s work in such a way where the viewer is whisked into the narrative, and carried along by it. Sixty-six minutes seemed less so, as Tony and company weaved the anecdotes, instances, humorous, and somber moments of Tony’s journey. In contrast, another 46-minute documentary that followed With No Regrets had me checking my watch. That documentary’s production value was phenomenal, but it failed to draw, or capture in a way where it transported you. With No Regrets: A Dancin’ Man’s Journey does that successfully, and you are sad to find it, and Tony’s life, has come to an end.
Producer/director George Fairfield is working the film through the festival circuit and other outlets. You can follow George Fairfield’s YouTube channel and LinkedIn page to find where With No Regrets: A Dancin’ Man’s Journey may be viewing in your area.