Hannah Fontes: The “Evolved” I Am Playing Me

Hannah Fontes

The “Evolved” I Am Playing Me

ASU Kerr Cultural Center, Scottsdale, AZ, December 4, 2023

Reviewed by Lynn Timmons Edwards

Hannah Fontes

I had the pleasure of reviewing the debut of I Am Playing Me in March of this year. (Hannah Fontes: I Am Playing Me – Cabaret Scenes). Why a second look?  To quote Fontes, “this show is a musical journal for me. I’m evolving and this cabaret grows along with me.” The show is a balance of story and eight songs; the final three were all new. The cabaret was presented by The Bridge Initiative in partnership with the ASU Kerr Cultural Center in Scottsdale, Arizona. The presenting company was founded by three professional theater women in 2016 who believed the Phoenix Metro theater scene needed a broader voice and more opportunities for women. Their cabaret series has also evolved to the much stronger format of a 30-minute song share (with local singers performing before to the featured cabaret), followed by a fully conceived cabaret performance by a local or, in Fontes’ case, an out-of-town but still Arizona-based artist. The Bridge Initiative is currently under the artistic leadership of Amie Bjorklund and Elizabeth Brownlee. Co-founder Brenda Foley has stepped into the role of producing executive director.

Fontes was in fine voice and the sound system and acoustics of the Kerr Center are superior to those of the La Posada Ballroom. She has added projections to the show that only showed the names of the songs, but the projections have the potential of adding more scope to her stories. The first new song, “If You’re the Coffee” (The Arcadian Wild), introduced her current beau, Jacob, who accompanied her on guitar. He is an excellent guitarist, and they clearly have chemistry. (A little vocal advice: the song calls for less chest voice and a higher-placed lilt and float.) The Fontes that has evolved is currently a Fontes in love; that was not the case nine months ago. Her patter, what was intended to inspire her audience to realize their inner beauty, transitioned perfectly into the newly added “Beautiful” (Carole King). She again told us about her mother’s scare with cancer, and the remission news was still good. Her emotion over it was quite raw as she showed with her tears. She closed her show by showing off her country-music vocal skills with “If You Knew My Story” (Edie Brickell/Steve Martin from Bright Star). Accompanist Simon Cunningham added lovely harmony.

I met Cunningham for the first time at I Am Playing Me in March. Since then, he has founded his own theater company (www.simonsaystheatre.com), has continued as president of the Flagstaff Music Theatre, and has continued working as a music educator and to produce and perform in multiple cabarets and musicals. I learned he is a graduate of the Berklee School of Music, and is an arranger, a composer, an excellent singer and musician, and a delight to sing with. Bravo to Fontes for collaborating with Cunningham and for adding him vocally into her show.

Lynn Timmons Edwards

Lynn writes and performs themed cabaret shows based on the songs of the Great American Songbook throughout Arizona. She has had three short plays produced in the Theatre Artists Studio Festival of Summer Shorts and is working on a full length play, "Fairy," based on the life of Mary Russell Ferrell Colton, a founder of the Museum of Northern Arizona. In addition to writing and singing, Lynn plays bridge and tennis and enjoys traveling with her husband and artistic companion, Bob. Born in Ohio, Lynn is a graduate of Denison University (BA), Arizona State University (MPA) and has lived in Arizona since 1977.