The blog of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
South Main Street was bustling in the Akron Civic Theatre the other night.
The theater, a Knight Arts grantee, knows how to throw a party, especially when the aim is to thank supporters of all kinds for all the help that they have given to the arts presentation group.
At a recent event, the theater treated supporters to a fun-filled evening. Hey, there were free drinks and finger foods galore. The stage was set up as a mini-cabaret with several round tables done up with notices – brochures, cards, and flyers – of upcoming productions so that those in attendance would have some advance information (and that’s always a nice feeling when you’re part of something like this).
Theater Director Howard Parr and Media Coordinator Val Renner were on hand to give directions on how the evening was going to go.
Renner, in particular, was buzzing about the entertainment for the evening – singer/songwriter Hannah Thomas. To hear Renner tell it, Thomas is an “up-and-comer” and “someone to watch” who is going to “make it big.”
Turns out I agree with that, as did the revelers on hand at the event.
Thomas, as Renner described her, is probably in the rockabilly genre, although that’s hard to pinpoint. Hannah Thomas owes her southern background musical influences to The Judds, Johnny Cash and the like, but she also hearkens to Janis Joplin (through a rendition she did of Joplin’s hit “Me and Bobby McGee”). But Thomas also listens to jazz and is a fan of the late, great Ella Fitzgerald.
The result is Thomas’s own musical style – a sign that, should it catch on as it probably will – she will make a significant musical splash.
The singer accompanied herself on guitar (an instrument she demurely says she is still learning) and banged out 45 minutes worth of songs that she wrote herself. She gives a solid performance, chatting easily with the audience as she segues into another of her in-your-face lyrics.
Although only 22 years old, she exhibits an amazing maturity – in the lyrics of her songs, in the personal experience she brings up, in the musical range and style she has great control over, and in her ability to structure a performance to mine the attention and response of the audience. At one point, she even got the group to be her backup partners for the clinch line of her “Watch Out for the Deer,” which is as good a growing up song as there is.
You’re likely to run into Hannah Thomas sooner or later. She’s busy – doing up to 60 engagements at a time as she crosses the country. More than likely you might see her at the Akron Civic Theatre. She was there a few months ago, and then recently. Chances are she will return.