My kind of stage: Belleville teen's talent takes him to the Fox

News-DemocratApril 2, 2014 

Frank Sinatra's career might as well be ancient history for most high school students, but Tom Fields loves his music.

That music has helped the 18-year-old Belleville resident make history of his own as a finalist in the St. Louis Teen Talent Competition.

Tom is one of 12 acts set to perform at the Fox Theatre on Friday night. The competition started in February with 107 acts.

"I'm more excited than nervous," Tom said this week. "It's just too much fun to be nervous. I'm not performing open-heart surgery. I'm performing on the Fox stage, and that's going to blow my mind."

Tom will sing a medley of "crooner" songs, including "As Long as I'm Singing," recorded by Bobby Darin, "Ain't that a Kick in the Head?" by Dean Martin and "My Kind of Town" by Sinatra.

The Fox is furnishing Tom with props, including a dressing-room table, chair and garment rack.

"There's a nice framework to my act," he said. "It's framed in the sense that I'm warming up in my dressing room. I'm getting dressed. I'm going through my playlist. I'm getting ready for a big show."

The finals will begin at 8 p.m. Friday. Singing, dancing and even hula-hooping by students will be mixed with professional acts, including the Fox Tellerettes.

The show will celebrate St. Louis' 250th birthday and center around the W.C. Handy song "St. Louis Blues." Admission is free, but tickets are required.

The competition is sponsored by the Fox Performing Arts Charitable Foundation. Judges from the entertainment business narrowed the field to 37 acts in the preliminary round and 12 acts in the semi-finals.

"There were a lot of great acts," said Kathryn Ballard, the foundation's executive director. "The difference between No. 12 and 13, 14 or 15 was just a matter of points."

Tom is a senior at St. Louis University High School. He is active in music and theater, playing trumpet in symphonic and jazz bands and recently leading the cast of "Guys and Dolls."

"I got to play Sky Masterson my senior year," he said. "It was an amazing experience. Everyone was on their game."

Tom also is a cartoonist for the school newspaper. He's the son of Dave and Bing Fields of Belleville. Sister Meilin, 15, is a student at Visitation Academy in St. Louis.

Tom formerly attended Cathedral Grade School in Belleville and played trumpet in the Belleville Philharmonic Youth Orchestra for years.

"(Tom) hasn't given us a day's worth of trouble since he was born," his father said. "His classmates just think the world of him. He's always loved school, but he found his real brothers at SLU High."

Beyond theater and music, Tom recites poetry. He recently became Missouri state champion in the Poetry Out Loud National Recitation Contest.

Tom decided to enter the St. Louis Teen Talent Competition after seeing his friend perform last year. He noticed a lack of baritones.

In the past two months, Tom has adjusted his act several times. He added "My Kind of Town" to the medley after seeing a 1965 video of Sinatra performing in St. Louis.

"Instead of saying 'Chicago,' he said 'St. Louis is my kind of town,'" Tom said. "And I thought, 'What a great idea for a finale.' So even though it was Frank Sinatra's idea, I put it in my finale."

Tom is graduating in May. He hasn't decided on a college, but he plans to study film with the goal of working as a producer or director someday.

The Fox will open its lobby at 6:30 p.m. and house doors at 7 p.m. Friday. People who haven't called MetroTix to get tickets in advance will have to wait in line.

"We give out more (tickets) than the house can hold," Ballard said, noting the theater has about 4,100 seats. "We've learned that some people take free tickets and then don't show up."

At a glance

What: St. Louis Teen Talent Competition finals

Where: Fox Theatre, 527 N. Grand Boulevard in St. Louis

When: 8 p.m. Friday (lobby opens at 6:30 and house doors open at 7)

Seating: General admission

Admission: Free, but tickets required

Information: metrotix.com or fabulousfox.com

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