Sammy Dallas Bayes

1939 - 2022

COOPERSTOWN, NY – Sammy Dallas Bayes, a Tony Award nominee whose career as a director, choreographer and writer in musical theater, television and movies passed away unexpectedly early Thursday morning, May 12, 2022, at Bassett Medical Center in Cooperstown. He was 82. 

Born July 9, 1939, in Wasco, California, Sammy was the son of Sam Tony Bayes and Zana Marie Frost Bayes. Raised in Pueblo, Colorado, he attended Centennial High School where he was part of his first ever musical, playing Tommy Albright in “Brigadoon.” After graduating in 1957 he attended college locally, and then from 1958 to 1964, Sammy proudly served his country in the United States Army both as active duty and the reserves.

An experience at Perry Mansfield Theatre Camp in Steamboat Springs, CO got Sammy hooked on the idea of dancing professionally and he was offered a two year dance scholarship at Stephens College in Columbia, MO. By 1963 he had arrived in New York City, ready to begin his career. A year later, Broadway legend Jerome Robbins provided that opportunity with his new production, “Fiddler on the Roof,” in which Sammy earned a role. It opened on Broadway September 22, 1964, with Sammy playing Yitzuk, then later as The Fiddler as well as Dance Captain. From then on Robbins had a big influence on him and became his mentor. 

In 1966 Robbins tapped Sammy to open a touring company of “Fiddler” in Japan. This was the first of numerous international productions overseen by Sammy including London’s West End, Melbourne and Sydney, Australia, numerous National Tours, and a Broadway Revival in 1990 which won the Tony Award for Best Revival of a Musical all featuring Robbins’ original choreography. In 1989, Sammy assisted Jerome Robbins on his last Broadway show “Jerome Robbins Broadway” which was a compilation of Robbins’ body of work in the musical theatre. Additionally, Sammy completed a book, at Robbins’ request, that contains every step of the original “Fiddler” choreography. To this day it continues to be sent out with every production, whether it’s being performed by a first class production, community theater or school.

In 1969 composer Frank Loesser hired Sammy as a choreographer for his Broadway production of “Canterbury Tales,” which earned Sammy a Tony Award nomination for Best Choreographer. Following that he added to his success as choreographer for “Heathen!” in 1972, did musical staging for “Shelter” in 1973 and “Rainbow Jones” in 1974, as well as working on numerous other national and international productions.  He also was the associate choreographer for the film version of “Fiddler On The Roof” and appears in the film as a Russian dancer. Sammy choreographed the film version of “Godspell” starring Victor Garber in 1973 and was choreographer for several television commercials, including the infamous “Who Wears Short Shorts” ad for Nair. Sammy worked on the television show “Reading Rainbow” with LeVar Burton on an episode about teamwork which is used as an example in schools each October for Fire Prevention Month. Other productions include the one-act play “One Man’s War” that Sammy wrote and directed about the experiences of his best friend growing up in 1960’s street gangs and his subsequent deployment as one of the first Marines to see combat in the Vietnam War.

On September 22, 1990, Sammy married the love of his life, Barbara Van Hook - herself a dancer, singer and actress - in a ceremony at Marble Collegiate Church in Manhattan. Through the years they continued to enjoy membership at Marble, and were fortunate to be in worship there when the Rev. Norman Vincent Peale preached one of his last sermons from their pulpit. In 1993, their daughter Alexa was born followed by the birth of their second daughter, Taylor in 1995 upon which they settled in Cooperstown. While maintaining their membership at Marble Collegiate, they actively attended the First Presbyterian Church of Cooperstown. In 2012 and 2014 Sammy directed, produced and choreographed condensed versions of “Godspell” at First Presbyterian as the highlight of Palm 
Sunday worship services in which church members and local students and adults took part. 

Since the 1990s, Sammy brought his expertise and experience to Orpheus Theatre in Oneonta, NY and the Leatherstocking Theatre Company in Milford, NY and was director for many of their productions including “West Side Story”, “Oliver”, “Chicago”, “Funny Girl”, “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum,” “Footloose”, “I Hate Hamlet”, “Lend Me A Tenor” and many more.

Sammy and Barbara teamed up to co-direct six musicals at Cooperstown Central School: “Grease”(2008), “West Side Story” (2009), “Cats” (2010), “Fiddler on the Roof” (2011) and “Footloose” (2012). Their sixth and final musical in 2013 at CCS was a production of “Les Misérables,” a challenging show to put on which involved moving sets designed by Sammy and a cast of over 70 students.

Regardless of professional caliber, Sammy ran each production with the same fierce passion, igniting something special in every soul he worked with. He held all to the same standard, inspiring confidence among those who felt invisible and balance to those who had three left feet. As he ignited a light in this world so now his light shines brightly in the heavens - eyes still winking that mischievous twinkle to all of us.

Sammy is survived by his wife of 31 years, Barbara Bayes of Cooperstown; their two daughters, Alexa and Taylor of Dryden; a brother, Clifford Roberson, Jr. of Blue Springs, MO; and numerous, cousins, nieces, nephews and a multitude of friends.

He was preceded in death by his father, Sam Tony Bayes, his mother, Zana Marie (Frost) Bayes Roberson, his stepfather, Clifford Roberson, and his sister, Patricia Dawn (Roberson) Ricks.

All are invited to call and pay their respects from 4 – 7 p.m. Monday, May 23, 2022, at the Connell, Dow & Deysenroth Funeral Home in Cooperstown. 

A service to celebrate the life of Sammy Dallas Bayes will be offered at 11 a.m. Tuesday, May 24, 2022, at the First Presbyterian Church in Cooperstown, with the Rev. Dr. Jason N. Cashing, pastor, officiating. Face masks will be required for the church memorial service which will be live-streamed via Facebook or Zoom on these links:

Zoom Invitation
Meeting ID: 861 5711 1480
Passcode: 278448

Reception to immediately follow the service directly across the street at Templeton Hall.

For those who wish to honor the life of Sammy Dallas Bayes, his family would appreciate memorial donations to the Entertainment Community Fund (formerly the Actor’s Fund) which provides support to those in need in the entertainment industry.

Arrangements are under the care and guidance of the Connell, Dow & Deysenroth Funeral Home in Cooperstown. 

If you would like to send condolences to the family, send an email to Connell, Dow & Deysenroth. We will forward your comments to the family. If you would like to send flowers in memory of the deceased, contact Mohican Flowers at (607) 547-8822, or A Rose is a Rose at (607) 264-3100.